Sunday, December 31, 2017

Day 4,018: Eleven years for the runstreak!

The vest I'm wearing is from the 20th Portland (Ore.) Shamrock Run. It's 20 years old.
It was fitting that I began Week 11, Day 1 of my marathon training today, since today's easy 6-mile scheduled run meant the completion of 11 years of my daily running streak.

I meandered through my neighborhood before making it to the sign in front of Piedmont Park where I've taken my picture at the end of years of my run streak.

It was a particularly cold day, 33 degrees, and I wore running pants, two long-sleeved technical T-shirts and a running vest, as well as gloves and my running visor. I thought I would certainly shed the vest during the run but I needed all of the clothing to keep me going.

If anything, the visor was a mistake -- usually I like to have the open nature of the visor to vent out heat when I run, but running in such a cold day, all it did was keep my head cold!

I was happy to be able to run after running 18 miles on the Silver Comet the day before. That was my longest run since the 2016 Chicago Marathon and I was pretty happy with the workout (ran in 2:34:34 for an 8:35/mile pace). It's probably one of the fastest long runs I've done in training and it deserves a write-up that will probably be backdated.

I ended the month with 216.91 miles, the most since the 243 miles I put up in August 2016 in the height of my Chicago training. Also closed out 1,668.98 miles for the year and 15,824.69 miles for the runstreak.

Looking forward to more running in the New Year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 4,004: Jeff Galloway 13.1

Jeff Galloway 13.1: This pic sums up my race, basically pacing behind faster runners for a 1:41:47 finish.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown/
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
 -Pink Floyd

The last time I ran in the Jeff Galloway 13.1, I was running at a projected 1:45 pace when calf cramps struck at Mile 10 and I was forced to slow down.

Had I been able to run 1:45, I would have placed in the top three for my age group. So I lamented having to take it a little easier after running in the Chicago Marathon with a stress fracture in my shin a few months before that race.

I had the 1:45 mark for this year's race on my mind the entire year. I added two extra races, the Atlanta 10-Miler and the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon to help give me some additional work with Atlanta's hilly streets.

Yet often plans don't go the way you think they will and instead I suffered a four-race streak of sub-par race times, starting with October's Army Ten Miler (1:27:28) in Washington; the Atlanta 10-Miler (1:26:58); the Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half (1:56:03) and the Thanksgiving Day Half (1:55:49).

While those times were disheartening, I kept my head up and worked through a new marathon training segment, running nearly 300 miles in the last 5-1/2 weeks. On Dec. 6, I'd hit seven tempo miles out of a 12.63-mile run in what was my first 50-mile week in more than a year.

So I had confidence going into this race but I still was wary of being so snakebit the last four races. My plan was the same as last year, to go out at an 8-minute mile pace, something that would give me a 1:45 half.

The race starts downhill and it is a fast start. I've learned to not just fly down it and so I played it carefully. As we continued down Juniper I recognized ahead of me, maybe 20 seconds or so, a female runner who I know only on Instagram who has a consistent 7:40/mile pace. It was extremely helpful to guide my own pace, even if I had no plans of keeping up with that pace.

We went up Juniper's rolling hills (Mile 1: 8:00) and then later on up Central Park's hills, which I've always disliked as they are also part of the Publix Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon course. This time they felt extremely doable and Mile 2 went at 7:48.

We turned on Baker-Highland and then onto Freedom Parkway where Mile 3 is (7:53). Here I could tell people were pushing the downhill section and I felt like I wasn't properly warmed up.

I ran 1.13 miles into the park on my way to the starting line and ran into my friends Frank and Bonnie. I ended up walking with them up the big 12th Street hill and then it turned out that the race didn't start at 7:30 a.m. that I thought it did, instead at 8 a.m.! So I basically stood around and shivered for a half hour.

Mile 4 (7:59) is right before the North Highland Avenue intersection with Freedom Parkway. I kept running pretty well and it was here where I saw Frank making his own way toward the intersection. I gave him a wave and a thumbs up and then I entered the Eastside Beltline trail.

Here I felt like I was cruising pretty well (Mile 5: 7:35). I ran back and forth with a female runner down this stretch but the weird thing about this race is it happened pretty often even though I kept running my own pace without worrying about the jockeying. Each time except at the end of the race I ended up passing the jockeying runner.

At the end of the Beltline Mile 6 came and I ran it in 7:48. I'd been mentally preparing for this series of uphills, up to Virginia Avenue. Although I brought my trusty visor to the race to warm my head (it provides enough warmth while letting heat vent out the top), it was really sweaty at this point and I had been holding it in my hand for a while. So I found a big bush with a tree in it and chucked it in it. I hope it's still there, I'd like to get it back!

I also had been toying with the idea of trying to take off my long-sleeved shirt under my short sleeve shirt mid-run, as I did in the Thanksgiving Half. Next time I'll have to just wear a short-sleeved shirt and my Mizuno arm sleeves and maybe have a throwaway layer while I wait for the race to start.

We turned onto Ponce de Leon and then the big hill up St. Charles Ave. Here I gave the hill a lot of respect (Mile 7 8:00) and just worked my way back up to North Highland Ave. It was nice to be back in my home turf and this stretch down to Virginia Avenue is always fast. I ran Mile 8 in 7:23 and was starting to feel extremely good. I'd whittled down the distance of the Instagram runner (she had stopped briefly on St. Charles) and when she accelerated down Virginia, I followed in kind.

The race turns up Park Avenue and then out to Monroe Avenue. This flat section has caused me a little trouble in the past but I ran Mile 9 in 7:22, feeling great. Frank's wife Bonnie was taking pictures along 10th Street on the edge of the park, so I decided to ham it up while running on the uphill slant.

Maybe a minute or so later I'd caught up with the Instagram runner. This wasn't really my plan at all but she'd stopped briefly twice so far during the race and kept running. There was a point where we ran side by side for a second but then she pulled behind me and stopped. I kept running and made my way to the Piedmont Avenue turn.

Here on Piedmont is Mile 10 (7:47) and where I developed calf cramps last year. The section goes downhill and then is a little rough uphill past 14th Street and up next to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I worked my way up and on the way down saw my friend Anna further down Piedmont Avenue. On this downhill stretch (Mile 11 7:24) I went back and forth with another female runner and this continued as we turned into Piedmont Park Commons.

Just then a young guy in his 20s passed us and made his way up on the paved trail that leads to Mile 12. I settled in a few steps behind him and it felt effortless following him up the trail. Right before the dog park he moved to his left and I wasn't sure if I needed to take the lead and do some work so I did but he ended up passing me again. It felt ok. Mile 12 as we entered the park's bowl was 7:47.

At this point I could tell on the watch that this guy (and myself) were fading a little bit. I also could see that wow, there was a remote chance that I could even break 1:40 if I played things right. But I was also fading and really wasn't able to get the 6:55 surge that led to my PR in Boston last May. The young guy got about eight seconds ahead of me as we entered the path around Lake Clara Meer.

On one of the corners we'd caught up with Anna and I could tell that she saw me as she turned the corner. Here I pretended that I was in my 800 meter interval set and ran down the length of the lake, thinking I would kick at the turnaround that leads back along the other side.

It was here that I finally ran alongside Anna and I told her, "We have 400 (meters) left. Let's do this." But her reply was almost like a painful cry and I left her alone. It turned out to be the first time I ever finished in front of Anna in a race.

I started down the downhill stretch with about a quarter-mile left in the race. I could see the younger guy ahead and was surprised that he didn't kick after the first curve. It gave me a little scare as maybe the finish was further back than I thought it was and I'd expended too much energy.

But when I made the turn myself (Mile 13 7:47), I could see that there was only a little bit of race left. I started my acceleration but there was no way I would catch the younger guy. As I approached the finish I let out what really was more of a roar as I worked to summon as much energy as I could to pound out to the finish (the last .16 miles on my watch was at a 6:38/mile pace).

And just like that, a 1:41:47 finish. It is my second fastest half marathon time after the 1:39:14 that I ran in May on a flat Boston course.

Also good enough for 6th place in my age group! lol I was still extremely proud to have placed 39th overall, especially when my last two halfs were in the 1:56 range.

I'm happy with the Hansons program, if anything in the future I would just use the marathon program instead of the half marathon program because I think the extra miles and speed/tempo work really helped.

I'm not sure I'll be able to run this kind of race next year, since I have plans to run in the Berlin Marathon in September. If I do, I'll have to train to be faster to place in my age group, possibly having to break 1:40 to do it.

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 34 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt long (inaugural JG 13.1), short (Big Peach Sizzler '09), shorts, cep compression socks, Headsweats visor (Phidippides), Nike Zoom Fly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My runstreak is now 4,000 days!

I still have hat head from my visor after today's 7-mile tempo run.
I had a 7-mile tempo run on schedule today and after that workout, which totaled 11.37 miles, I reached my 4,000th day of my running streak.

In the beginning, the streak had a practical purpose. I used to run and then, thinking I was super-fit, I would stop running and then weeks and months would go by before the next time I ran again. Each time I would start running it would take four to six weeks before it was painless to run again, whether it was pain in my legs or my lungs trying to catch up.

Now it's just something I do. I was asked today when it is going to end, and I really don't know the answer to that. I like the idea of continuing my runstreak as I'm continuing (and hopefully crushing) my running goals. I like that I'm a much faster runner than I was in my 20s and even in high school.

So who knows when it's going to end? I'm looking forward to more miles and adventures in running!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day 3,999: No love from Chicago (whew!)

At the end of October I must have had some free time on my hands because I threw my hat in the ring for two marathon lotteries -- the BMW Berlin Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The Berlin entry was a longshot -- I've tried for several years to get into the London Marathon and once to get into the Tokyo Marathon with no success. Both races have separate lotteries for foreign entries, making the chances extremely small to get in. I had no idea what my chances were with Berlin but figured it was the same.

Chicago, well, that was different. The two previous years in which I entered the lottery for my hometown's race -- in 2010 and 2016 -- the lotteries opened in February and you received word around April.

After the October 2016 race, however, the marathon opened the lottery at the end of the month and notified you if you were in by the end of the year. I was still coming off of the stress fracture in my shin and really it was too soon for me to decide to want to go through training for another marathon that soon. So I didn't apply.

This year, however, I loved seeing pictures of the people participating in a race that I still loved. I've kept myself marathon-free for all of 2017 and thought it would be great to run it in 2018.

But when I received notice that I was accepted in the Sept. 16 Berlin marathon, some worries immediately popped into my head -- the Chicago marathon is literally three weeks later and waay too soon to recover and continue training for a second marathon.

The only time I did two marathons in that close of a period of time was in 2014, when I did the Marine Corps Marathon in October and then the Honolulu Marathon as a basic fun run about six weeks later in December. I remember the Honolulu race was extremely painful, it felt like my fitness had gone out the window in an extremely short period of time.

I'd actually tried to stack marathons again in 2016, with the Chicago race in October and then the Chevron Houston Marathon the following January. Yet I didn't even go to that race after I felt bogged down by training that December and felt my focus was gone.

So whew! I save the $195 it would have cost me to participate in Chicago. Yes, you can defer to the next year if accepted into the race and didn't want to run in it but you forfeit the race fee and must pay it again the next year.

I'll keep applying. It would be great to somehow qualify for guaranteed entry under the new time guidelines the Chicago marathon released this year. I don't see any statistics from the race but I wonder if the increased guaranteed entries affected the number of lottery entries available.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 3,998: Your Nuun ambassador -- Year Two!

Earlier this morning I was greeted with a great surprise -- to be named as a Nuun ambassador for a second year.

It's been a great honor to help spread the word about electrolyte replenishment and to be connected to a really great running community via Instagram.

Looking forward to helping continue to spread the word and run great races in 2018!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 3,997: An icy spill

A slip on an icy patch resulted in my finger being splinted for part of the day.
I've run nearly 4,000 days in a row and can tell you the one streak I could never do is run without falling down at some point. I can't tell you the last time I did fall down -- it's such a rare occurrence that I usually note it in this blog.

But today ... lol.

I had an easy 6-mile run on the schedule and it was kind of warming up and the streets were clear. Sure there were icy spots on some sidewalks here and there but largely nothing to worry about. I left the YakTrax at home since I would not need them 99 percent of the time I was out there.

But I was about four miles into the run when I slipped on an icy patch on a driveway. All that I know is that my cell phone that I was carrying in my left hand took the brunt of the fall as it got thrust right into the snow/ice. Only problem was that my left index finger also went into the driveway. I also fell/rolled on my right arm and right leg.

At first I wasn't sure if my finger was broken as it was incredibly numb for a while. It never swelled and I didn't have any trouble running the rest of the route home and holding my phone (which survived the fall).

When I got home, my finger felt a little better being taped to something straight (such as the IKEA pencil in the photo). A few hours later, when I took a shower, I took the makeshift splint off and my finger felt better without a splint.

The next day the finger felt fine although there was a bunch of bruising on either side of the knuckle and I couldn't really make a fist.

It just goes to show you that you never know what might happen when you get out on the run. I've learned my lesson, though. Uncomfortable or no, I have to wear YakTrax if there's any snow/ice out at all.

Time: 10:15 a.m.
Temp: 32 degrees (?), wind chill 29 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirts, long x2, windbreaker, Brooks running pants, Saucony ISO Zealot 3.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Day 3,996: My first 50-mile week (in a long time)

Ran into another runner on my snow run!
I had an easy 8-mile run on schedule today that would give me 50 miles for the week for the first time since the second week of September 2016 when I injured my right shin after running in the Craft Classic Half Marathon in Atlanta.

It was sort of incredible to think it had been that long to put up that many miles but even in my lead up to running 1:39:14 in Boston's Run to Remember, the most weekly mileage I'd put up in that training cycle was 41.1 two weeks before that May race.

Up until today this week had been all smiles -- I'd fully recovered from the Thanksgiving Half Marathon and was able to put up workouts that showed it -- I did 6 x .5 mile intervals on Monday and then hit seven miles at tempo pace on Wednesday in a run that totalled 12.63 miles. Then, of course, yesterday's 10.54 miles in the snow.

I've been pretty careful about my running, though, always cognizant of that injury that led up to the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Yet so far the extra mileage has been a joy -- before this training cycle I'd hovered around 30 miles a week and it's been nice to let the cats loose toward the 40-mile range last month.

Still I had this run to run and while the snow looked like it was melting, I wasn't totally convinced that just going in running shoes was the best idea, so I strapped on my YaxTrax traction control devices on my Saucony ISO Zealot 3 shoes and headed down Ponce de Leon Avenue into Oakhurst.

It was nice to get this run in. Really no matter what happens in the marathon, doing this training program is a good way to get in shape through the winter.

Time: 8:53 a.m.
Temp: 30 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirts, long x2 (Nike black, JG 13.1), Brooks running pants, North Face windbreaker, gloves, Hoka One One beanie, Nuun hydration hat, Saucony ISO Zealot 3.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Day 3,995: A rare snow day in Atlanta

A bit of snow remained on my hat after today's 10.5-mile run
It's funny just two days ago I was running a 7-mile tempo workout in a t-shirt and shorts.

Today I had an easy 10-mile run on the schedule but it was cold (maybe 34 degrees or so) and a little rainy. With the kids schedules, I didn't have any other choice but to dress for the elements and get out there.

I made my way to the park and it was sleeting pretty heavily. I didn't really feel it because of the waterproof shell I had on but at about 2.5 miles I had a choice -- return home and change my shirts (I felt like maybe sleet had fallen in my jacket behind my neck) or keep going. I decided to keep going at the last moment, making my way out to Ponce de Leon Avenue and up to North Highland Avenue to the PATH trail.

On the PATH trail there was a younger guy really blazing it to the North Avenue intersection and then back up to Boulevard and around. Dude was only wearing sweats with no gloves. I was glad to have worn what I decided to wear for the workout. That started with long- and short-sleeved technical T-shirts, my North Face waterproof shell, a hat as you see above, gloves and shorts. I debated wearing my running pants but thought it would be warm enough.

For shoes, I went with a pair of Saucony Zealot 3s, the ones that the running shoe company sent to me after I sent them my pair of Zealot 2s that had the outsole peeling away from both shoes. Saucony uses rubber on the outsole and this provides excellent traction on wet surfaces.

I looped back down the PATH from Boulevard and out to the Atlanta Eastside Beltline trail. It was nice to have the trail almost to myself, with the exception of a few dog walkers and one or two runners during the entire length from Irwin Street to Monroe Avenue.

It seemed surreal to see the snow falling down pretty heavily among trees that still were full of yellow fall leaves as I approached Irwin Street. It almost looked like something I'd see a computer trying to generate in a video game. After turning around at Irwin and heading back, a woman in her 20s who was sitting with two girlfriends outside one of the buildings alongside the Beltline said, "I'm so proud of you!" I said thanks and waved, not sure if it was sincere or in jest.

The snow was really falling pretty heavily and my shell and my face and my hat were encrusted in snow. Near the Monroe intersection some guy on his bike filmed me running down the trail and later on another guy with a wrapped up professional camera did the same. I just focused on having a good pace and getting back home.

In the end, I ran 10.53 miles. It was nice to have a relaxing, almost leisurely pace. I could have changed my workout and run much shorter for the run streak but snow comes so infrequently to Atlanta that I'm glad I had a chance to enjoy it this time around.

Time: 9:39 a.m.
Temp: 34 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (JG 13.1), Technical T-shirt, short (Atlanta Braves navy), North Face windbreaker, technical hat, Brooks shorts, cep compression socks, technical gloves, Saucony ISO Zealot 3.