Saturday, October 27, 2018

Day 4,318: Fast Pace 5K

I had never thought of myself as someone who was afraid of the pain of racing, but now as I charged down the field during a race, I was aware of the absence of any hesitation. The marathon had so altered my perception of suffering that there was no hurt holding me back in the shorter distances.
 - Deena Kastor, Let Your Mind Run
CUMMING, Ga. -- I was crestfallen at the end of the race when I could see the finish line clock and it occurred to me that once again I'd failed to break 22 minutes for a 5K.

But then my acceleration -- the last tenth at a 5:28/mile pace -- brought me closer and now I could make out the minutes when before I could only watch the seconds roll by. I could see the number "21" in the minute slot. I'd made my goal in the Fast Pace 5K, to break 22 minutes for the first time in more than two years!

After running in the Berlin Marathon last month, I wanted to work on speed before my next marathon training cycle starts in November and signed up for a few 5Ks. Another goal was to break 22 minutes and refresh my qualification for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race.

After running a 22:34 in the Run Like Hell 5K two weeks ago, it didn't appear likely I would accomplish my goal. Add to that I tweaked my left hip right after that race and couldn't do any speed work for a week. The number of 800 meter intervals I ran prior to this race was two.

I finished this race in 21:30, more than enough for Group A and another testament to the dividends a marathon training cycle brings -- in April just weeks after I'd run the Snickers Marathon, I shattered my 10-mile PR with a time of 1:14:52.

Advertised as a downhill race, the Fast Pace 5K, promised to be exactly what I'd been seeking. I almost didn't sign up, since I didn't know about it. I'd planned on running in the Race for Rest 5K on the Westside instead. But once I came across the listing, I immediately registered. It was great that  even a late signup was only $25.

I left home at 6 a.m. the day of the race and got to the fairgrounds at about 6:45 a.m. There were plenty of parking spaces but it was tricky walking around in the dark. I made my way to a large barn-like structure to get my bib number and was able to bypass the large line in that building for the restrooms -- the larger restroom area of the fairgrounds that I walked by, was open and had few people inside.

I waited in my car for a few minutes while I waited to run up to the start, about a mile away. At the time it was cold and rain misty. I had to go back to my car a few times just to get extra items, such as my visor, when I thought the start of the race would be rainy.

Getting to the start was pretty easy, it is basically as they described it, a left out of the fairgrounds and then a right on W Maple out of town, up a hill where they were still inflating the starting gate.

There were a lot of youth running in the race, which also made me think this would be a fast race, thinking of past races such as the Bowerman 5K in Oregon. I saw two adults wearing Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. I'd left my pair(s) at home, instead opting to run in for the first time (for a race) my Nike Zoom Streak 6 shoes, which a recent New York Times analysis said had the second greatest improvement of marathon times (3 percent) instead of the Vaporfly's 4 percent.

The race started and normally while I would have thought about reining my speed in down the huge downhill on the other side of the starting gate, I adopted the strategy of the Revel race series coaches and decided to go with it as long as I wasn't putting too much effort into it. It felt easy and I was running at about a 6:30/mile pace.

About eight-tenths of a mile in is the first hill. I'd wondered how it would be, since for example in the Vinings Downhill 5K, the first hill is major. I noted to myself that this hill was minimal, yet still a hill. I crossed the first mile in 6:42.

At this point, the course goes around a residential block. I felt myself slowing and a quick glance of my watch proved it -- I was running at a 7:29/mile pace, not good enough for my intention to break 22 minutes. But I passed a lot of people here. I tried to draft behind a guy but he was running too slow. I kept gunning it and hoped for the best.

When I exited the neighborhood and passed Mile 2, I saw that the race clock had just turned 14 minutes (I ran Mile 2 in 7:19). I didn't despair here and told myself it was a push -- I'd run the first two miles at a 7-minute-mile average. All I had to do was run the final mile in 7 minutes and I'd be golden.

I also decided to break down the race into six half-mile pieces. With two of these pieces left I gunned it at this point, knowing that it would be basically all downhill. We crossed through bits of downtown and then there were only a few turns before the final rush to the finish. At this point I took a turn with a young woman. As I approached she put in a surge on the outside and so I took a step and turned on the inside. She surged again but as soon as I took the final left turn toward the finish I gunned it. I told myself I could always slow down if I was running too fast. My 3rd mile was in 6:52.

(As a tangent, I always interpret surges when I approach as race inexperience. Because you are running near maximal in a 5K, my belief is to let someone go and run at your pace if they pass you and then you can evaluate if your speed is going to be greater than theirs and that a surge is not going to help you in the long run).

When I thought that the finish line clock said 22 minutes had elapsed I briefly paused a little but it was only a few seconds before I realized only 21 minutes in the race elapsed. With very little fast running prep under my belt I was running at the very edge of my fitness and was relieved to have finished with a 21:30. I'm pretty sure that's my second-fastest 5K and it will be nice to not have to worry about qualifying for Group A of the Peachtree for a few years.

And yet ... I wonder if there are faster times ahead? I would love to prepare for this very well run race next year and see if I can shave 13 seconds off my time for a new PR!

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 52 degrees, rain mist
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Big Peach Sizzler '09), shorts, Nike Zoom Streak 6.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Day 4,304: Run Like Hell 5K

It only took a second but I outkicked a guy who passed me at Mile 3 in the last four seconds of my race.
The last two marathon training cycles I'd steered clear of running in any extraneous races to hopefully prevent myself from being injured like I'd done after the Craft Classic Half Marathon in 2016, a month before the Chicago Marathon.

So I eagerly signed up for a few races during this "downtime" before the training cycle for next year's Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon begins. One reason is to hopefully get a fresh qualifying time for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race (I've been using my 1:39:14 time from Boston's Run to Remember half marathon the last two years).

This race, the Run Like Hell 5K, seemed like a great warmup. It was one of the first races I ran in Atlanta when I moved here 15 years ago. The race is not in my scrapbook but I think I might have run it in 24:30 or so.

It starts and ends in the historic Oakland Cemetery and later the race director announced that it is now the largest race in a cemetery in the world. The route empties out on Memorial Drive along the Memorial Drive Greenway and then turns on Capitol Drive before returning to the cemetery via Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. I guess I should have known better but I didn't realize it is full of rolling hills, especially inside the cemetery.

The race started with a swing of a golf club from an imitator of the famous golfer Bobby Jones, who rests in the cemetery. Then you go up a rise and then a slightly steep downhill to the first corner. It was here that I accidentally hit a guy who crossed in front of me in the back. "Sorry!" I called out. (I chased this 42-year-old guy the entire race and he ended up finishing first in our 40-49 age group in 22:10).

Then the course turns again and you go up a hill that reveals the finish, which is in front of the base of the Confederate Memorial Obelisk. But in the initial part of the race, the course turns away and winds around another hill before you are led out of the cemetery. After a straightaway and a short turn you turn onto Memorial Drive where Mile 1 is. I crossed here in 7:21.

The road rolls toward Capitol Avenue where there is another incline before you turn onto MLK Jr. Drive. Somewhere around the Interstate 85 overpass, a guy in a white T-shirt passed me and then, at least it seemed to me, kind of got in front of the track I was running and slowed down a little bit. I wasn't sure what this meant, so I tried to pay it no mind. I ended up passing him after Mile 2 (7:17) and then I mentally prepared myself for the last bit inside the cemetery.

There's an incline just after you enter the cemetery and then you get the incline that happens right after the race starts. On the downhill section (near where I clipped the guy I mentioned previously) I told myself to keep it steady, to not accelerate until/unless someone were to pass me on this section. That didn't happen and I was greeted with the final uphill past Mile 3 (7;21) and the finish.

With about a tenth of a mile left, the guy in the white T-shirt passed me on the uphill to the finish. I let him go by as we both passed a third guy who was working his way to the finish. Then I realized as we were really close to the finish that I was kicking faster than the white T-shirt guy, and he was riding the middle lane just as he was in Mile 2.

A series of 14 pictures (I bought and posted the one above) taken from the finish line gun camera captures the sequence pretty well. In the last four seconds of my race, I come up alongside of him and in a second I've broken free of the white T-shirt guy to finish in 21st place overall (of about 1,222 people). My 22:34 time is basically what I typically run in a race with a bunch of rolling hills. I hadn't done much speed work since the Berlin Marathon and really looked at this race like a baseline.

But I was happy to have taken second place in my age group -- when you are in the latter part of a 10-year age group it's hard to beat guys whose age is in the first half of it. I'm also glad I had something left for the finish.

Time: 9 a.m.
Temp: about 60 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Publix Georgia Half Marathon), shorts, Saucony Type A6, Stryd footpod sensor, Headsweats visor, goodr sunglasses.