It's been more than 15 months since my last in-person race and since I've updated this blog. But my 17th Peachtree Road Race happened today and so I have to write about it!
The last 15 months I've run in countless races, many of them I was pleased to be a part of, including my 16th Peachtree which was virtual (I ran it at Jekyll Island). In the last few months, however, I found it difficult to get motivated for those races and even thought or wondered if I would have coaxed myself to run faster if there were other people around.
For this year's race you could choose Saturday July 3 or today. I chose today since July 4th is the traditional day of the race. While I expected everything to be the same, it wasn't! I would have missed my start time if it wasn't for the wife who read an elite runner's post that said she would be there at 6:20 a.m.
While the elite women's race starts before the elite men and the rest of the field, I was expecting to show up for a 7 a.m. race. It turned out my race started a half hour earlier at 6:30! Anyway, this meant I had to change a little bit of my morning wake up and drop off routine.
These days I usually like to wake up an hour before heading out for my regular workouts/virtual races. This gives me enough time to get ready. So I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and then around 5 a.m. I got on the treadmill and ran very easy for five minutes. I've found the muscles in my left leg are pretty tight around my knee and I can feel it if I run cold so I usually like to run very slowly at first and after about five minutes I am good to go.
By 5:20 a.m. we were in the car and I was headed to the drop off on Piedmont Avenue. Only this time the police blocked off the road a block earlier than the usual drop off at the Atlanta Bread Company at East Paces Ferry. No problem, I got out and then walked the extra block. There were a lot fewer people out and it seemed on our way there lots of non-runners crowding restaurants, etc.
From the drop off it's about a mile to the corrals. This time around I decided to wear a pair of running shoes that I would leave at the start and carried a brand-new pair of Nike Vaporfly Next% racing shoes. I casually made my way up Piedmont Avenue with the shoes in tow. Two guys ran past me, one of them noticed and said, "Nice shoes."
When I got up to Peachtree Street I saw three members of the Atlanta Track Club's female elite runners doing a warmup jog. It was like 40 minutes before their race started and I wondered why they would warm up so early since a lot of stuff I read said it's not helpful unless you do it right before you start running.
Then I passed a young guy throwing up in the bushes. And then, the sound of extremely fast light feet running up on me from behind. The woman stopped a few feet in front of me on the street (I was on the sidewalk) and it occurred to me that this might be Sara Hall, who as announcers later said, holds the distinction for being the second fastest female marathoner in American history. I hadn't heard anything about Sara Hall running in this race, though, so I wondered if it was someone else. I could tell though that the woman's shoes were Hall's sponsor, Asics. In any event, the woman then sped up and ran off. When I got to the corral they announced her first in the women's field.
I made my way around and through Lenox Square and turned up Lenox where you would typically turn to make your way to the start and the corrals. But this was blocked off. We had to walk several blocks more, to Wieuca Road and the Container Store where they had a junction for vaccinated people and those who weren't and had to be screened. I made my way up to Peachtree Street finally and then walked right through Corrals D-B until I finally made it to A. It was 6:20, an hour after I left home! My stomach was growling since I had only eaten a quarter of a Picky Bar (I usually eat an entire bar before a workout). It forced me to consume prior to the race the gel that I brought.
Here I changed my shoes and left my old shoes in the mulched median of the road. I was able to do a few strides before the race started. It wasn't very crowded although I was still near the back of the corral. In years past I would have made my way up but this year I didn't want to crowd anyone so I didn't. And maybe that was a mistake?
The race started and I could tell right away that something was wrong with my watch. It said we were running at a 10-minute mile pace. I know I started in the back of the corral but could this be right? I was near a trio of young guys who had one letter each of "USA" painted on their backs and they ran in formation. I felt like I would try to stay behind them and certainly they wouldn't be running at a 10-minute mile pace? The first mile beeped and I could see that I ran it in 7:06.
Confused, I made my way through the next two downhill miles in 7:03 and 7:02. I tried to estimate my pace based on the numbers that appeared to me on my watch and I really didn't know. When the hills started after Mile 3 I did my best to try to take it easy yet still keep a decent pace. Mile 4 beeped and when I saw 7:43 I wondered if I ran it too slow. Still I couldn't really run any faster and I made my way up the second set of hills to Mile 5 (7:29).
I crested the hill at 14th Street and tried to work myself into a decent pace, thinking I would try to run faster after the turn on 10th Street. When Mile 6 arrived, my watch beeped 7:08 and I wasn't really able to determine whether I would be breaking 45 minutes today. I kept on pressing but not kicking, passing up the crosswalk light at my old apartment, then the next crosswalk at the Yoshino Cherry pokestop where I kicked during my PR in 2019.
Not too long after a young guy in his 20s started to kick and I decided to just go with him. He got about three seconds on me to the finish and I hoped it was enough. I finished in 45:09, besting my PR from the last time I ran the Peachtree in 2019 by two seconds. I covered the last .27 miles in 1:38 at a 5:54 pace.
This time around I carried a small bottle with Nuun in it thinking I might need to drink during the race. I didn't but it was helpful afterward when I guzzled the entire bottle. The weather was exceptional (64 degrees via my phone, 61 degrees reported by my watch) and my fitness seemed ok, especially tied with the extremely comfortable Vaporflys. The one thing that still sticks out in my mind is my erratic footpod-derived pace reporting. Every race you tweak some part of your plan to get better, whether that's more mileage, speedwork or at-home exercises. This time it looks like I'll be trying to fix my watch.