Saturday, April 28, 2018

Day 4,136: Run for Research 5K

If you like free snacks that you can get at a convenience store, the Run for Research 5K is for you.
I ran in the RaceTrac Run for Research 5K last year and came within 9 seconds of placing in my age group.

This year the race was on a new course that started and ended at SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. It actually looked like the course was the one that I thought I was going to get to run last June in the Braves Country 5K.

I arrived early and was glad I did. I'd forgotten that RaceTrac's snack vendors were out in full force giving out freebies of Oreo cookies, Utz chips and other things like Payday candy bars. I picked up my shirt and bib and had a whole bag of snacks before the race started.

When the race started it was a screaming downhill. I tried my best to keep it under control -- I did 6:49 for the first mile and it felt good. Mile 2 had a little bit of uphill and while I wanted to keep pace I faded a little bit to 7:12.

Mile 3 has the huge hill at the end going over Interstate 75. I just tried to run up it carefully and made my way down the hill toward the stadium. There's another rise right before you turn into the stadium -- Mile 3 was 7:25.

I remembered though that in last year's Braves Country 5K I noted that you have to kick when you turn to go into the stadium because once you get on the warning track, there isn't much race left. So I did, passing three guys and a woman who'd been in front of me the entire race. I finished the last .19 of the race in 1:03, at a 5:52/mile pace.

I finished in 22:29, good for 6th place in my age group and while the hills were hard, I felt really good about my run. It was the first time I ran in Nike's Epic React Flyknit shoes and these were everything I thought they would be for a 5K. They were very smooth on hard surfaces and didn't give me too much squishy give that the Nike Vaporfly 4 percent did going up a hill at the end of the race.

Still, I marveled how eternally consistent I am in hilly races -- 22:30 is my going time.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: T-shirt, technical, short (Ukrops 10K 2016), shorts, Nuun hydration PRO Compression socks, Nike Epic React Flyknit.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Day 4,116: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (PR)

Third time is the charm! PR -- 1:14:52
WASHINGTON -- "Blue Leader," I said as I spied a guy in a blue shirt making his way past the other runners up the final hill of the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler.

A guy in front of me turned around to look at me, likely not knowing that I was invoking Star Wars lore as I readied myself for a fast finish to the race. I'd only done this once before, streaking through the wooded trails of Nike's World Campus during what to me was an extremely fast 5K.

This time around, I was focused and running fast, on my way to breaking the 1:18:05 PR for the ten-mile distance I just set last month at the Snickers Marathon. I crossed with a kick equivalent to a 5:36 mile.

In December we saw the lottery had opened for this iconic race in D.C. and we knew that it would come at the tail end of our kids' spring break vacations. Why not, we thought? Less than two weeks later we received notification that we were in.

A few days earlier in November I'd just signed up for the Snickers Marathon. After training and running in that race, the timing wasn't perfect to run in the Cherry Blossom race but after completing the marathon I tried to maintain mileage and a few 6-mile tempo runs at the new pace (about 7:28/mile) along with interval training for spring and summer 5Ks I'd hoped to participate in. Even last week's 5 to Thrive 5K was in the hopes of aiding my quest for a new 10-mile PR.

What I wasn't sure about, however, was pace. When I trained for the marathon, I ran pretty much at a 7:40/mile pace with some strength interval work at 7:30/mile. I would be running much faster, at a goal of 7:28/mile to PR with the chance of making the Group A standard (last year was 1:14:40) in the Peachtree Road Race.

It was a plan.

After having trouble with my headphones during the Snickers Marathon, I thought I would go without music for this race since I planned to run in the 7:30/mile pace group. At the last moment I decided to bring the headphones with me and I was glad I did -- the pace group was in the corral in front of me, which started two minutes earlier than mine! I never caught up with that group (or the 8:00/mile group for that matter) in the race.

I walked with the wife from our hotel across the National Mall over to the Washington Monument where the start was. The corral was pretty crowded and even though there was time to warm up, it wasn't clear I would be able to get back in the corral if I did. So I went without the warmup, thinking that the longish walk would be ok.

When the race started, I was concerned there would be congestion in the first mile or so (this happened to me in the two previous races I did here) but that wasn't the case. What I found was that I had to dial my pace waaaay back and my Garmin said I ran 7:28 for Mile 1.

Over the next few miles I struggled to maintain my pace and I really thought that I was on the verge of blowing up and not being able to maintain a decent pace. I ate a gel at about 4.5 miles. The official splits show that I ran the first 10K at a 7:38/mile pace, definitely slower than my goal and more like my body wanted me to rein in the faster pace for the speed that I trained for the marathon.

At this point, however, we had entered Hains Point, an isthmus where the last few miles of the race are located. I was running behind a young woman who was maintaining a good pace -- I saw on my watch I was running 7:20/mile. I wasn't blowing up and I decided that I would try to hold onto this pace as long as I could. The woman had two red horizontal lines running across the back of her white tank and I dubbed her "Red Leader."

By Mile 8 or so I'd ended up passing her and was setting my mind up for the finish. I saw the race clock at this point and knew that I could run 7:30 miles the last two miles and be at or under 75 minutes. But this kind of went out the window at Mile 9 when I looked at my watch and it said "7:30." (My split time was 7:21 or probably more accurately 7:25 at this point since my watch recorded 10.12 miles instead of the official 10). I ate my second and final gel at about 8.5 miles.

The official split shows that my average time had vastly improved to 7:32/mile in less than 3 miles. I knew that when you leave Hains Point there is a sign that says 800m were left. This is where I saw "Blue Leader." I made my way up the last hill, which I used to dread, following him, but ultimately passed him.

I selected another target, "Orange Leader," and then passed him before I crested the hill. As much as I didn't like wearing my Nike Vaporflys last week in the 5K, they felt aggressive and fast in the last section.

I finished in 1:14:52 for a 7:29/mile pace and a PR. I missed my Group A target by 12 seconds. Despite that, I was elated the rest of the day. My marathon recovery in the five weeks leading up to this race was more like a taper for this race. I felt extremely fresh and confident on race day. The faster interval sessions also helped, especially in the last 800 meters of the race.

The new PR gives me much more to work with. I felt like I just ran out of race -- if there were three more miles in it, I might have been looking at a new half marathon PR instead.

Time: 7:32 a.m.
Temp: 36 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Nuun Pactimo '18), shorts, Brooks arm warmers, Headsweats visor (Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler) Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent.

A trip highlight was meeting Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon champion Olympian Meb Keflezighi!