July 4, 2017

First Race in 13 Months

Running took a back seat to friends and family as well as travel and foreign language, culture, and food during the sabbatical year.

Huge Peachtree Road Race expo at the Georgia World Congress
I am totally okay with this.  We've been very active, walking for most of our sightseeing, and most weeks, I've fit in several hours of decent cardio (usually hiking with some running wherever I could make it happen).  Also, hefting our packs everywhere coupled with lots of elevation change in our hiking as well as gym workouts (both hotel and outdoor) means that my general functional strength is much better than it was before the year began, even if my running fitness isn't.  Although my weight has fluctuated a few pounds here and there whenever I've found a scale, right now, I weigh a pound or two *less* than I did before we started the year, and I feel like I have more muscle, particularly in my upper legs and arms.

Before we left the bay area, my last real race was the See Jane Run Half.  Since then, I've only strung together more than 5 miles of true running effort on a handful of occasions.  So, I was understandably a bit apprehensive about running my 3rd Peachtree Road Race.

We were in corral G, so we got to watch the final meters
of the Women's Elite field finish before we started.
I'd run this race twice before.  The first time, in 2011 (almost 6 weeks after a 4h13 Coeur D'alene Marathon (avg 9:40/mile) I ran it to pace my father-in-law and a pregnant friend on a very hot and humid day -- we finished in 1h07 and I remember it being *much* more difficult than 10:54 miles should have been at that level of fitness.  In 2014, one month after a 2h15 half marathon (10:15 avg), on a relatively mild 4th of July in Atlanta (by this race's standards) I ran it in 1h03 to average 10:10 miles, and it was also *very* difficult.  In other words, it appears that this course and weather are not designed to BT's advantage.

I'd gone out for a few runs in ATL the week and a half before the race, so even before the red alert I knew that it was going to be rough for me (I'm very heat and humidity sensitive).  When our corral started at 8:05 AM, it was about 74F with 95% humidity, and both the temp and the humidity just kept climbing.  Just standing around waiting for the start caused me to break a sweat...

My 70+ FIL is *very* fit and finished 7 minutes ahead of me.
The start was the usual festive 4th of July occasion, with red-white-and-blue stars and stripes everywhere and on everyone.  My father in law wanted to try to make up the slow downs from the crowding in the first half mile, and by the time we hit the first water station, it was clear to me that I could not keep up with his planned pace.  So, I told them to go on without me and walked briefly, and then started my plan of run-walking heat management (walk up hills if high effort, walk slowly through water sprinklers & water stations to dump cups on my head, walk in the shade if a patch presents itself between long exposed areas, etc.)

3/4 of mile walk from where we parked to our corral,
then 0.4 miles of easy intermittent walking to the actual start,
and 1 mile from the finish to our other car.
I finished the course with 6.3 miles on my garmin at an average pace of 12:30 (1h18 chip).  Given the heat, my lack of training, and my history on the course, this felt like a decent showing.  I feel good about it as a very high effort starting point for some home-based running in the fall and winter. 

Also, I observed two very interesting things.  First, I backed off due to overexertion much earlier than I historically would have (probably because 13 months of not training gave me permission to be very conservative), and I actually cooled down the overheating and was able to finish the last 1.5 miles of the race with a stronger effort and faster pace than the portion in the middle where I was struggling.   I don't think I've ever actually recovered from over-exertion and gotten comfortable enough to have a faster finish in a race before.  It was such a great feeling (the downhill didn't hurt).

Pace & Elevation vs. Distance (miles)

Second, I had remembered this as a race with lots of hills.  But the hills near my in-laws' home are much more steep (where I'd run a few miles in prep), and that, combined with all of the hiking we did this year means that right now, I don't really register a total elevation climb of less than 300 feet over 6 miles as anything remotely hilly.  The race felt flat to me, which was a big change from the 2 previous attempts where I'd done the running before the race in the flat bay area (also possibly because I took walk breaks up the hills and compared to uphill hiking, these inclines were nothing).

I am happy to be back in my home country and to be able to celebrate its birthday with such a big fun race.  I highly recommend the Peachtree Road Race to everyone.  The field is large enough that the raffle is relatively forgiving (all 5 of our group who registered as individuals got in).  This year, it was the site of both the men's and women's US 10K road championships, which made for some fun fast US running to enjoy while waiting for our start corral. 

This race is *amazingly* well run -- tons of security and volunteers, 60,000 participants, water stations are well-marked and large (but nothing besides water is on offer), the start corals go off *exactly* on time, the toilets are abundant, and the finish is in the beautiful and huge Piedmont Park where you can relax with friends and family and enjoy the ice cold water and snackboxes.

And now, I'm psyched to have time to actually build some real running into my schedule as we road trip across the US, I get to construct a 2.5 week training plan to get ready for Wharf to Wharf.  Wish me luck (E2's in fabulous shape, so I'm gonna need to up my game -- I'm starting with praying for cool weather.)


Jen said...

Welcome back! And great showing at the race! Just thinking about that kind of humidity makes me want to faint. ;) There's a reason I didn't run that much when I lived in NC. LOL

bt said...

Thanks, Jen. Yeah, the humidity is crazy. We're in Austin now, and it's only 50-60% humidity, which even with a head cold, felt so much more reasonable for today's run than the 90% pre-thunderstorm for the Peachtree. See you soon!

Angela Knotts said...

Nice job! I would totally love to run this race if I was ever in the area. Sounds like a blast!

bt said...

@Angela -- thanks! You would definitely enjoy it because the corral situation is great. You'd likely qualify for B or C at least, and that earlier start makes it much more tolerable.