Thursday, July 4, 2019

Day 4,568: My 15th Peachtree Road Race (PR)

My decision to wear Atlanta United's King Peach kit in the race was rewarded with a PR.
It was hot out, running down Peachtree Street and somewhere around Mile 2 I noticed all the runners around me. We seemed to be running slow. I glanced down at my watch for my pace and saw the numbers 6:55, leading up to one of the fastest mile splits I've ever run in this race or any race for that matter.

Alright, I thought, and continued on.

Today was my 15th AJC Peachtree Road Race and what I thought was going to be just another ordinary race turned out to be epic, breaking a personal record that has stood for three and a half years and besting my Peachtree course record by more than a minute and a half.

There were hints this could happen as I ran 45:28 in last month's Summer Sizzler 10K in Kennesaw, proving that even without any speedwork since April's Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon, I was in good race shape. Yet the last time I ran a similar time -- 45:26 in 2017's Possum Trot 10K, it turned into a dud come Peachtree time with a 47:49 race that July 4th.

The weather looked like it would conspire against me, however, with morning temperatures at 75 degrees. Already the Atlanta Track Club's event system was at yellow, warning runners to take precautions because of the heat and humidity.

Still, I decided I would just see how things would go in the race. Even though I knew it was going to be hot and humid, I decided to wear the Atlanta United soccer team's King Peach kit -- I'd worn it on a similarly humid day and ran home after a game and thought it could be something I would run in. I'd actually worn most of my singlets in previous Peachtree races and thought it would be nice to wear something different.

I debated on my shoes for this race. If this race didn't matter very much to me, why not just wear my Hoka One One Carbon X shoes I wore in the Summer Steamer? But in the end, I decided I might need to rely on the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent Flyknit's much better ability to accelerate when I needed it most. So that was that.

Another thing I did was that I made sure I got into the Group A corral early. The last two years I got in late because of lack of time or because I wanted to try to warm-up beforehand and would end up at the very back of the corral. This led to me inevitably running at a 7:30/mile pace in the crowd, much slower than what I'd planned on running and my time for the first three miles would suffer accordingly.

Today I was in the middle of the corral and when the race started, I was running at a good clip. I struggled early, my breathing was too hard and I wasn't really running that fast -- there are slight rolling dips before Piedmont Avenue, (something I dislike about the last part of the Labor Day Big Peach Sizzler 10K course) and it looked like I was going to have my typical Peachtree Road Race with Mile 1 ending at 7:19.

After this I tried to not look at my watch just to avoid disappointment and so I just kept going by effort, and was surprised that Mile 2 ended at a 6:58 pace. Mile 3 came really quickly, down to the bottom of the hill by Peachtree Battle and a little bit up the first incline. I ran this mile in 6:59.

When I got up Cardiac Hill, I was beyond sweaty in my Adidas Climacool kit. I kind of regretted wearing it but there was nothing I could do. I made my way up the best I could and slowed a little to get a cup of water to pour on my hands (they felt hot) and then took 3 sips from the next cup of water I grabbed. When I got to the top, I tried to hammer the decline and flat stretch before the next hill.

The next big incline, which goes all the way up to 14th Street, didn't appear to be as steep as I thought in years past, so I kept going as best as I could. I didn't look at my watch the whole time but I ran Miles 4 and 5 in 7:34 and 7:35, which gave me 10 more seconds of cushion over what I usually have run those hilly miles in years past. In recent years I'd thought about taking a gel at Mile 4 -- I actually had two gels with me on this race, one to take before the race started and one at this point but I decided not to take any this time around.

At 14th Street you could see that people were really pushing. I looked up and I was at 12th Street already and I just told myself to get to the 10th Street turn. From here, the course is all downhill to the finish. I made my way to the photographers at Piedmont Avenue and then I told myself I should be kicking from here, as I had just seen this part of the course the day before cheering my son along as he completed the Peachtree Junior One Mile race.

But I kept waving myself off. A little bit further was the "Yoshino Cherry" pokestop and Mile 6 (7:05), where I kicked in last year's race. I really couldn't do it here either. I kept pushing though and finally I could see the finish line at the bottom of the hill I started to accelerate. It wasn't really much of anything, though.

When I crossed the finish I finally looked at my watch and was startled to see the race time start with the numbers "45." (I ran the last .29 miles at a 6:05 pace). It felt like I had run a 46- or 47-minute 10K yet again.

It's a huge confidence boost to crush a course on an extremely hot and humid day. It's a little surprising I hadn't done any speedwork in a few months but the 230 miles I posted last month in the first few weeks of my Chicago Marathon training block certainly helped. And most of those miles have been under the same humid conditions.

At the same time, I could have done better. If I'd looked at my watch near the end of the race I might have pressed harder or at least understood what some of the runners who were kicking ahead of me were trying to do -- break 45 minutes. That's out there and I know if I can run so close to that mark under extreme weather conditions and a brutally hilly course, I have what it takes to PR again in a more favorable situation.

Time: 7 a.m.
Temp: 75 degrees
Gear: Atlanta United King Peach jersey (Adidas Climacool), shorts, Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent Flyknit/B).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

For 3rd year, Peachtree Road Race relaxes time standards for early waves

For the third year, the Atlanta Track Club has relaxed time standards for the first four waves of the Peachtree Road Race. This year you needed a "projected 10K finish time" of 46:39 (about a 7:30/mile pace) for Wave A or 51:07 (8:13/mile pace) for Wave B. Even seeded runners caught a break, needing a time of 39:52 this year compared to 39:35 last year.

The new time standards can be found here. In applying for the 50th running of Atlanta's annual July 4th road race you had to submit a recent race time in order to not be randomly placed in a late starting wave of a race that attracts about 60,000 participants.

It makes a huge difference since the later the start wave, the later you start and the warmer it is on the course as the summer morning temperatures rise.

Presumably the 10K's time standards shift each year because of various numbers of applicants for each start wave and to make sure each one is not too crowded. Yet runners don't know if the race times they submit will qualify them for a particular starting wave because the time standards aren't released until a few months after the registration deadline in the spring.

Last year you needed a 45:47 (7:22/mile pace) for Wave A and 50:41 (8:09/mile pace) for Wave B. The time standards for the first four waves have been declining since 2017, when a time of 45:32 was needed for Wave A or 50:21 was needed for Wave B.

It's a little harder, however, to be placed into the next six waves compared to last year. This year, you need to have a projected 10K finish breaking 1 hour for Wave E (last year it was 1 hour, six seconds) and Wave K is four seconds more stringent at 1:20:04.

Also this year, a 10K time breaking 2 hours will get you into Wave N and a submitted time of 2 hours or more is good for Wave P. Runners without submitted race times are placed randomly in the remaining seven waves (R through Y).

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Day 4,549: Summer Steamer 10K (Carbon X race test)

KENNESAW, Ga. -- I haven't done any speedwork since well before April's Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon but with the Peachtree Road Race coming up in three weeks I wanted to race the 10K distance. I also wanted to put the new Hoka One One Carbon X shoes to the test.

So I decided on this race in the suburbs. It's on the same day as the Chattahoochee Nature Center's Possum Trot and I chose this one because of the other race's seemingly huge hill at the end (that really wasn't so big after all).

For the 10K, the race is two 5K loops that begin in an office park before going on a few streets and then through the paved Noonday Creek Trail and then back to the start. My race also started at the same time as the 5K so at the start I wanted to be sure that I held my pace in check as to not run at a 5K pace and then have to slog through the same distance again.

The start/finish gate was a little narrow and I started several rows back from the start. It turned out I was pretty far back as I was six or seven seconds behind the gun time. When I started there was a whole group in front of me and I wondered with my 7:30/mile pace if I was even going to run closer to the 7:15/mile pace I'd need for a PR.

There were a few people around me in the beginning and I could even see a woman running with a few dogs as we approached the turn for the second street we'd run on. I was pretty amazed since she was with the front group!!  I ran the first mile in 7:23.

After Mile 1, the course turns on Barrett Lakes Boulevard and is a 56-foot incline over .46 miles to Auto Park Drive Northwest. It is a little daunting but gradual and I made my way up it. Then it dips and resumes another climb of 58 feet between 1.55 miles and 1.8 miles when you turn onto Roberts Road. It starts to be screaming downhill until 2.31 miles when you enter the Noonday Creek Trail. (My second mile was 7:15).

At this point there were some people behind me and I was pretty much drafting off of a kid. On the bike trail he joined up with another youth and I decided to not keep running as fast since it was becoming apparent most of the people in this spot were running in the 5K and were kicking to the end of the race. Indeed when the turn off came for the 5K finish I was the only one running! My third mile was 7:18.

At this point running through the office park I could see one guy already on the streets running way ahead of me and although I thought it would be nice to catch up I decided to not press it too much. Mile 4 was in 7:18 right before the turn for the hill.

The guy looked behind to see where I was before he turned to start the Barrett Lakes climb and I was still a good distance away. Maybe halfway up the hill I could see one other woman starting the turn at the top of the hill (she finished in 44 minutes and change in seventh place overall and I wouldn't see her the rest of the race).

So it was just me and this guy. I think I passed him somewhere on Auto Park Drive before the next turn on Roberts. (I ran this hilly Mile 5 in 7:28 just after the turn) I was a little worried since I didn't want to run too fast and blow up but once I got onto the bike path I decided I would run as fast as I could with some in reserve and then make a decision if I got passed.

I kept pressing and when I exited the trail and got to the short .05/mile turnaround before the end of the race I could see the guy was still on the trail and I probably didn't have anything to worry about. Mile 6 before this turnaround was 7:06.

When I got into the office park, there was a guy telling me to turn right where the 5K finished in the first loop and another guy telling me 10K was straight. So I kept straight for a few feet and the first guy was really yelling loud at me, so I stopped and turned around and confirmed, "10K?" When I got that confirmation, I turned around and then loped through the chute at a 7:19/mile pace, much slower than I normally would kick.

I finished in 45:28 for eighth place overall, 12 seconds above my PR, good for second in my age group (first place was a guy wearing Vaporflys who ran it in 42 minutes so I wouldn't have had a chance anyway).

I was happy with this race since I haven't done any 10K specific speedwork as I was focused on recovering from one marathon and just now starting my Chicago Marathon training. I enjoyed running in the Carbon X -- it felt very smooth throughout but I also feel like in a 10K I prefer the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% as I feel I can generate my top speed at the end of races much faster. I probably will use the Carbon X for the marathon however.

Time: 7:36 a.m.
Temp: 66 degrees
Gear: Mizuno sleeveless singlet, shorts, Hoka One One Carbon X.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Day 4,535: Virginia-Highland Summerfest 5K

My seventh try at the Va-Hi Summerfest 5K and my first age group medal for it.
Now that the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon is past and I'm a few weeks away from my training cycle for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I wanted to jump in a few local races.

The Virginia-Highland Summerfest 5K is my neighborhood race and this year was my seventh running of it. I hadn't run it since 2015 since at least for me, the course is pretty brutal with lots of rolling hills in the last mile. This year, however, I just thought I'd run in it. It also helped that I saw that I should have run in it in the years since 2015, since it looked like my average 5K time in a hilly race of 22:30 would have placed me in my age group each year. So it goes ...

I got down to the race start a few minutes before the race started and I was easily 8 to 10 rows from the start. The race started and I made my way, trying to take it easy on the downhill and then run carefully up the first uphill grade half a mile later. My first mile was 6:57.

This race felt difficult for me and I did my best to keep up. I didn't even want to look at my watch during the race out of fear that I would be running like an 8:30 mile through the hills. My second mile was in 7:08.

Then the really hilly portions happened and I felt like I wanted to quit but just kept on going. Mile 3 was 7:40. Up one hill, then down and up to another and then through the famous Virginia-Highland intersection and on to the final hill ... and then down two streets to the finish. When I turned I was surprised the finish was not too far away -- in years past it is slightly evil as it finishes on an uphill grade further up the street. I just tucked in behind a younger guy who passed me and kicked to the finish.

The course was short according to my Garmin watch and I finished the last .06 of a mile at a 5:41/mile pace for a 39th place at 22:06.

Afterward I chatted with the dad of one of my daughter's preschool classmates (who beat me by 17 seconds) and I wasn't sure if I placed in my age group or not until I received an email with the results. I placed third in my age group and was pretty elated since I'd never placed in my six previous attempts, even though my times in 2010 and 2015 were very similar to this year's.

The guy announcing the awards recognized my name as he came to it and said something to the effect that he's announced my name many times before. It was nice to get out there today even though with the heat and the hills it was a little bit of a struggle.

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 66 degrees
Gear: Mizuno technical sleeveless singlet, shorts, Nike Vaporfly 4 percent/B.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Day 4,500: Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon

This 3:48 finish was hard earned, with calf cramps, heat and a lot of walking.
"I have a rule, which is if you think you're at 70 percent, then start pulling back, because it's probably at 105." -- Robert Downey Jr. on fellow Avengers: Endgame actor Chris Hemsworth in Variety magazine
SUMMERLIN, Nevada -- I'm running, more like freefall, at a 7:23/mile pace down a 5.7 percent grade when I glance up at a sign.

"Holy shit, I'm running at 7,000 feet," I thought to myself as my Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit shoes carried me effortlessly down the mountain road.

Such was my initiation to a race that I always wanted to run, the Revel Race Series Mt. Charleston Marathon. After a hugely positive race last September in Berlin, I prepared myself for my ninth marathon in ways that I'd never done previously.

First I trained under an online coach, the one offered by the race series, and particularly because this race -- basically a 23-mile descent -- would be unlike any of the flatter races I've done in the past. The 24-week training program was my longest ever for a marathon, including grueling mile repeats up and down grade (I found a decent 4.8 percent grade near my house) and specific bodyweight workouts to prepare your quads for an epic downhill beating.

I also had a personal trainer once a week and twice a month subjected my leg muscles to dry needling via a physical therapist.

And yet? I still ran too fast for my ability on what came to be a very hot day in the desert -- 80 degrees halfway through the race.

The race starts and ends in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, several miles from the famous Strip. I stayed at a hotel nearby, wanting to make sure that I would be there in time for the hour long bus trip up to the top of the mountain for the 5:30 a.m. race start. After reading an account on last year's race, I decided to catch the bus at 3 a.m. so I wouldn't have to rush to the start.

It turned out the bus got up the mountain pretty quickly and around 3:45 a.m. I had a bunch of time to kill. Despite the long wait, I'm glad I did this since both last year and this year I'd heard accounts of people's buses getting lost or breaking down on the ride up the mountain. I had plenty of time to use the portapotties, hydrate, eat a small snack and apply sunscreen. I wore a technical hoodie under a fleece pullover -- it was pretty cold!

The race start was just on the road above the staging area. They had banners for the different time groups with the slower times to the left. But the race start was to the left of the slowest banner shown. I didn't pay any mind to this as I heard they would bring the faster groups along the cul-de-sac to the right to the start.

So right before the race start I waited with a few people by one of the banners. People were flowing to our left. Someone then came up and asked us why we were waiting. It turned out the banners were placed the wrong way and the race had started! I made my way to the left, paused to get my headphones working and was off!

The race preview warned of the hilly first half mile and I took heed. Only the altitude was 7,600 feet and I was sucking serious wind and then the course finally started downhill. My first mile was 7:51.

I tried to take it easy but the next few miles were serious freefall and I went 7:26, 7:29, 7:24. There was a little rise at Mile 4 and also at Mile 5, which took us through the parking lot of the mountain visitor center. It was a decent rise and I had just consumed a gel thinking the aid station would be at Mile 5 as printed in the guide. But it was after the parking lot so I had that gel in my mouth the whole time!

At Mile 7 and 8 I was cruising along -- but maybe too fast, with splits of 7:05 and 7:09. After Mile 8 I felt like I was having some GI issues so at Mile 9 I stopped at a portapotty at an aid station. I remember feeling my calf muscles not cramping but almost swimming in circles while I was standing still. I took this as a not great sign but I still made my way down the road.

At Mile 12 my headphones cut off, just as they did in the March 2018 Snickers Marathon. It probably is a good idea for me to not wear headphones as at this point I could hear my breathing, which could have alerted me that I was running at a harder effort than I should have been.

By the half-marathon mark (I ran it in 1:39:54, just 40 seconds off of my PR and it probably would have been a PR for the day if I hadn't had that Mile 9 stop) I could feel it starting to get warm so I backed off my pace. By Mile 16 it was genuinely hot and I started to develop calf cramps. This time around I carried Hyland's Leg Cramps tablets, some of which were the same ones that I never used in last September's Berlin Marathon and some of which were included in our prerace packet.

The tablets worked wonderfully. I could still feel the calves cramp but there was no pain at all. By this time because of the heat and the cramps I knew my race was done so I basically just stopped worrying about my finishing time at this point. So I would come to a complete stop at all aid stations and using the portapotty at most of them.

From here until Mile 20 I kept going back and forth with a guy who would walk until I caught up with him and then run and then walk again. I just made my way down the best I could and in this case it turned out that just running at a slow, constant rate beat out walking and running.

At Mile 23 they thankfully gave out wet towels and I held onto mine until the finish. In the next mile I had previewed the large 3/4-mile hill and I'd never been so thankful to see an uphill grade in my life as I was able to run up it completely. But there was still more race to go!

At this point I was running and walking when the cramps would start. They were impacting my ability to run and even in the last two-tenths of a mile I had to walk even though I could clearly see the finish. Once I made the final U-turn to the finish line I was able to jog a little as in the photo above.

My 3:48:58 finish is my second-fastest marathon time and it's amazing to think I was able to do that given the amount of stopping and walking that I did. I've learned some things for October's Chicago Marathon and I'm looking forward to executing a better race the next time around.

Time: 5:30 a.m.
Temp: 64 to 80+ degrees
Gear: Mizuno sleeveless singlet, shorts, cep compression socks, Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit/B.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Day 4,459: Publix Atlanta Half Marathon

Prior to Sunday, I've run the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon course, in its several iterations, seven times. Six for the half and one for the full, in 2010. It is my favorite course around the city and one I call a meat-grinder for its many unforgiving hills.

Only once had I bested it, in 2016, following a jerk who kept bumping me on North Highland Avenue and ran off at an incomprehensible speed, leading to my then-PR of 1:42:40. Since then, I'd largely avoided the race until a few weeks ago when the Atlanta Track Club revealed the race shirts, which I liked.

So I impulsively signed up for it and then struggled to figure out how to fit it into my marathon training schedule. I pretty much have a no-extraneous race rule after getting a stress fracture after running a half marathon a few weeks before the 2016 Chicago Marathon.

My goal thus was to just run this like a long training run, say in the 8:08-8:38 per mile range. Easy, right?

In past races, I used to take advantage of free Sunday street parking downtown on race day but remembered that in the 2016 race I almost wasn't able to find any. This time around, I left home at 5:45 a.m. and parked on the street a mile away in Midtown. Then I hoofed it to Centennial Olympic Park where the race began.

After gear-checking the Nike Odyssey React shoes that I ambled over in, I slipped on a pair of Nike Vaporfly 4 percent racing shoes that I pretty much only train in. I debated wearing a pair of Nike Zoom Fly shoes since I wasn't going to run this race hard but then I thought, at this distance, why not run in a fast shoe?

I've actually had great results wearing both shoes at the last two Jeff Galloway 13.1 races -- a 1:41:47 in 2017 wearing Zoom Flys and a 1:41:15 this past December wearing the Vaporfly, although I probably would have run it a few minutes faster if I hadn't developed calf cramps at Mile 10.

I still had a few minutes to kill before the race and it was cold. Fortunately I remembered the 2016 race start, in which I didn't think I needed to bring anything before the race and ended up begging to huddle with the wife and her mylar space blanket before the gun went off. I brought an old painters jacket that they gave me at one of the Jeff Galloway halfs and planned to toss it when the race started.

Fortunately the Omni Hotel next to the race start was open and I was able to use the bathroom (no lines, I was surprised) and then wait in a warm lobby until a few minutes before the start. When the race started, I took it easy. It was really congested anyway and now I'm surprised to see an 8:34 mile -- I thought my watch said something more like slower than 9 minutes.

When the race turned off of Piedmont Avenue down North Avenue, I tried to focus on the downhill slant as per my downhill marathon training program. It was nice to be on a familiar stretch up Central Park Avenue (this course overlaps the Jeff Galloway half here). Then after a few turns the course goes over Freedom Parkway and toward Auburn Avenue and the resting place of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

At this point I'd still been wearing the painter's jacket over my technical T-shirt. I ended up taking the jacket off and balling it up to hold in my hand. I'd planned to toss it but I remembered the family might watch the race in Virginia-Highland, so I decided to hold it for a few miles and see if I could drop it off.

After crossing through Little Five Points, the course turns off Moreland Avenue and up the start of Freedom Parkway. I made my way past a bunch of people and there was another Asian guy who also was running pretty fast up it. His pace was faster than mine and I didn't want to press it at this point, so I ran to the right side of the road so as to not be caught up with his pace.

At this point there also had been a teenage boy running with maybe his mom. They both had a pretty good pace -- the teenager was running fast back and forth ahead and behind in spurts -- but I didn't think it was going to be sustainable for them. It's distracting to be going back and forth with people in a race and eventually after turning up North Avenue again I lost sight of them. I used to really fear this hill here but this time it didn't seem like much of anything.

Finally I was on North Highland Avenue and it is always comforting to be back on home turf. This part of the course is gradual downhill and then turning onto Virginia Avenue is downhill with a brief uphill to John Howell Park and then back downhill. At this point I didn't see any sign of the family so I decided I would ditch my jacket in a bush on the side of the road at the park and just when I did, I saw the family on the right side of the road! I made an abrupt turn back to the right to drop off my jacket and continued down the hill.

As I ran down Virginia Avenue at about Mile 8.34 I finally had my first gel since the start of the race. In training I typically have them every four miles and I'd brought enough gels to do this. But I'd been passing the water stations as I didn't want to dig out my straw. I finally just decided to eat the gel and then find a water station. I dumped the empty gel pouch in a trash can at Virginia and Park Drive.

At this point I discovered I'd been going back and forth with a woman who I didn't think could sustain the pace, but maybe she could? Finally in Piedmont Park she went right to grab water and I decided to grab water on the left in case there was going to be more fast paced back and forth. Fortunately there wasn't for the rest of the race.

On the turn out of the park onto 10th Street, I'd been steadily running faster with a 7:48 Mile 9. On these rolling hills I discovered that I could front these hills at pretty much full speed without penalty. It felt crazy. So I rolled up Juniper this way, up over Peachtree Street (Mile 10 was 7:45) and then down past Bobby Dodd Stadium (Mile 11 was 7:41).

Up the double hill on North Avenue along the stadium I cut to the outside and literally was passing dozens of people. I looked at my watch and I was running at a 7:17 clip. I came back down and then up Techwood Drive and Mile 12 was 7:30.

I literally was flying down Marietta Street. After about a quarter-mile, I came upon an older guy who impressed me. He was doing the marathon and was moving at my clip, about 7:25/mile. I should have complimented this but I didn't and before the Luckie Street stoplight he fell back. At this point I remembered I had about a half-mile and three more stoplights to go.

In pretty much every race I've run on this stretch in the past, I've always had calf cramps or tinges on this street. But nothing so far. Mile 13 was 7:25 and when I came upon the final turn I was accelerating well. I finished the last two tenths of the race at a 6:37/mile pace and passed people on the straightaway.

I finished in 1:44:39, which is a time I'm happy about since I started off really slow. I'd caught up with the tail end of Corral A and after I crossed the finish line, one of the 1:45 pacers (I didn't see them the entire race) gave me a high five. It gave me a huge confidence boost as I'd struggled to run faster paces in recent tempo runs. I think a lot of leg strength work and physical therapy has really helped me this marathon cycle.
It sucked to have to walk a mile back to my car (and then to basically repeat the miles again later in the day for the Atlanta United game) but I'm happy to report that I didn't have the hip strain that dogged me after the December Jeff Galloway 13.1.

Time: 7:03 a.m.
Temp: 43 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF Georgia), shorts, cep compression sleeves, Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%/B.