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).