November 23, 2018

The Atlanta Half Marathon (my 50th!)

It had been 900 days since my last half marathon.  That's 2 years, 5 months, and 17 days in case you were wondering (like me), just how long it had been since I had run over 10 miles in one consistent effort.  Spoiler alert -- I finished!  I now have 50 half marathon races in my log, which, frankly, I can't really believe.

Obligatory start selfie.
My "training" had been minimal, so I put any finish as my D goal.  My C goal was sub 12 minutes per mile.  My B goal was Sub 2:30.  My A goal was Sub 11 minutes per mile to beat my last half marathon time.

Met the C goal.
While I had a lack of training working against me, I had quite a few things on my side:

1. The weather was absolutely perfect, with a start in crisp clean 37F and a finish in the mid 40s.  The course was partially shaded, and there was no wind.

2. Since I was coming from a vacation in the Atlantic Time Zone, I was, for once, 1 hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, so getting up early and racing in Atlanta was not going to be difficult.

3. S, my Atlanta running buddy, had decided to register for the race, and when I went to pick up my bib from her, she informed me that she was going to do the race with me instead of at her own pace (which is probably 2 minutes faster per mile than me).

Me and S -- we were going to have fun,
no matter what!

My father-in-law drove me to the start, and I was surprised to realize this race was much bigger than I remembered (5,781 in the half, 3,439 in the 5K).  They started the 5K at roughly 7:30 and were supposed to move through the wave start of the 5K and then the half in order to get to our corral by 7:57, but something must have slowed them down, for though I was at the front of my corral, I didn't cross the start line until 8:04:03.  This was very unlike the Atlanta Track Club, as every race I've run with them has been extremely precise.

They slated me for corral E, so S and I
spent the whole race passing people.

The course starts near the Olympic Torch and rings from the 1996 (100th) Summer Olympics, and runs near and around a bunch of Atlanta sights including Centennial Park, Atlantic Station, Piedmont Park, the State Capitol, and includes a finish in Georgia State Stadium.  At least half of the course was shaded, so even if it had been slightly warmer, it still would have been very pleasant for me.  Also, Atlanta Track Club knows how to keep folks hydrated, so there were tons of aid stations, *and* since Atlanta is Coca Cola town, Powerade, with delicious real calories, was offered at every aid station.

Atlanta is *hilly*.  And while I was generally undertrained, I was severely under-hill-trained.  I'm a natural downhill runner, which made parts of this course quite fun.  But, I also struggle with uphills.  I'd done a few hill repeats at the Stanford Dish in my lead-up, and one very hilly workout in Atlanta.  I also pushed myself on one hilly treadmill workout in Aruba that oscillated between 0 and 4% incline on a random algorithm.  Those 3 workouts weren't a ton, but I was *very* glad I'd done them, especially the 2 workouts in the "taper" weeks before the race.  Leaning forward and pumping your arms and knees to charge up hills to keep running is a very different type of running than what I'm used to, and I could feel my body changing form to mimic the way those workouts felt during the uphills.

My garmin totaled 507 feet of climb and 565 feet of descent, including a screaming 135 feet of descent over the last 1.17 miles.  If they finish the Olympic Trials down this hill and into the stadium, that could result in some crazy finishing sprints!  Unfortunately, after 10 miles, I hit a pretty significant wall, and had to declare defeat and take some uphill walk breaks to catch my breath.

Stopping for a picture of the skyline at the top
of the steep climb at Mile 10

My splits tell a tale of undertrained bonking:
1 - 10:26
2 - 10:43
3 - 11:06
4 - 10:37
5 - 11:23
6 - 11:19
10K - 1:09:15 (11:09 pace)
6 to 6.37 - @11:46
6.37 - 6.42 walk/3:22 bathroom break in Piedmont park
7.42 - 11:22
8.42 - 12:25 (includes cliff shot walk break)
9.42 - 11:21
9.42 to 9.69 - @10:51
9.69 to 9.76 - walk
10.76 - 12:04
10.76 to 11.18 - @11:45
11.18 to 11.26 - walk
11.26 to 11.72 - @12:20
11.72 to 11.77 - walk
11.77 to 12.09 - @12:09
12.09 to 12.15 - walk
13.15 - 10:55
13.15 to 13.35 - @10:39

Garmin total: 13.35 @ 11:41

Average pace with the bathroom break subtracted: 11:28

Atlanta Track Club has good schwag!

I am very happy with the fun day spent with S and the C goal finish and I'm definitely looking forward to the shorter stuff I have on the calendar for the rest of 2018.  Also, I'm very excited to come back to spectate (and possibly race one of the companion races of) the US Olympic Team Marathon Trials!

November 21, 2018

First Half Marathon in 2+ years -- the "training" (with bonus Aruba photos)

I'd strung together ten weeks of 20+ miles, gamefully increasing my weekly long run, decreasing my average pace, and fitting in a bit of strength and speed work here and there.

I'd registered for a half marathon on Thanksgiving, and, while I'd done a lackluster 10 miler 3 weeks prior to the race, I really wanted to get in a solid 11-12 mile run beforehand.

The Antilla Wreck was the largest wreck we've ever dived!
Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans for me.  I woke to the smell of camping in our house 13 days before the race, as the Camp Fire smoke had been blown into the bay area.  I opted to bike to yoga instead of the planned for long run, and even though I took it super easy and it's just a little over a mile, I returned sneezing, coughing and crying from the smoke in my eyes.

It's so cool how coral takes over shipwrecks and turns them into reefs!
The smoke was really bad.  And super depressing.  California fires have been a staple in my life since birth, but the last two years have been shocking with their increased size and ferocity.

Aptly named.
Saturday was more of the same, with the air registering firmly in the "unhealthy" range, so I skipped the run, sent good fire-fighting thoughts up north, and hoped that it would clear up soon.  The government recommendations were to stay inside with the windows closed, and when we went to brunch it certainly appeared that people were doing just that -- downtown was a smoky ghost town.

If you are in Aruba, you *must* go to the Butterfly Farm!
Sunday morning, the air quality dipped down into the "moderate" range, so I did a super easy 1 mile near target race pace with another mile of stride/jog intervals, but it didn't feel great on my chest and throat, and I wasn't sure whether I was doing more good or more harm with the effort.

One entrance ticket ($15) is good for unlimited visits during your stay.  
I returned at 7 AM to watch butterflies emerge from the chrysalises -- Amazing!
Monday, I woke and dressed with the intention of trying to fit in the 11-12 mile long run, hopeful that the trend toward better air would continue from Sunday, but no.  The air was back in the red "Unhealthy" range.

We flew to Atlanta on Monday afternoon and arrived to constant rain, but gloriously easy to breathe air.  Tuesday afternoon, I headed out with good intentions for the long run, but it started to really pour on me at mile 2, which turned the typically dodgy Atlanta roads and sidewalks into an obstacle course of puddles and random slippery bits.  So, I made the conservative call yet again, turned around and comforted myself with a cold/wet 4 miler including 8X30 second uphill surges.  I felt fit on this run -- it was easy, athletically, even on some of the hills that have historically taxed me.

The original plan was to taper in Aruba, while scuba diving, but thanks to fires and weather, I pretty much tapered the week before we arrived.  I toyed with trying to get in something slightly longer than normal taper stuff, but the running from our hotel really made it difficult to get anything longer than 2 miles done without just running back and forth along the same path with tons of pedestrians.

I got in one good workout day by combining 2 miles on the treadmill with 1.5 miles of stride/walk intervals outside.  All the rest were pretty lame 1-2 miles slow due to the terrain and crowds plus some additional walking.

We'll see if scuba is a good taper activity or not!
So, here I am.  24 hours 'til my first half marathon in 2+ years and my longest run was 10 super slow miles more than 3 weeks ago (not ideal).  But, the air is clear, I'm *very* tapered, nothing hurts, and the weather looks perfect for me with the start supposedly at 37F and the finish around 44F.

Wish me luck!

November 13, 2018

New York Marathon Spectating Weekend

A good friend of mine, A, left California and moved to Rochester, New York a while back.  We hung out earlier this year and realized we needed to schedule some quality time together.  So, we decided to go spectate the New York Marathon, just us.

It was a wonderful weekend.

If I had it to do again, I would register for the Abbott 5K on the Saturday before the marathon, which is an impressive event that shuts down Sixth Avenue.  We spectated it as well, and it was fun to see all the fast folks zoom by.

The reservoir in Central park -- such a great run!
I walked and ran more than a marathon's distance over the 3 days in town.  I fueled with Peruvian food, Columbian street cart food in Central Park, Pizza (Napoletana) in Brooklyn, Soup dumplings & other Chinese food, Vietnamese won ton soup, and Per Se!

One of many Central Park Views

My friend, F, was running the NY Marathon and somehow managed to get me added to her reservation at Per Se, so I ended up with an unexpected 3-star Michelin meal to boot.  It was, as you'd expect from Thomas Keller, divine.

Look at that form!

Running in Central Park hours before the marathon participants would arrive was very cool.  It was just me and all the cyclists and roller bladers who take advantage of the closed course and do a 26.2 mile ride or blade that finishes before the race events start. At the end of my run, I encountered the youth runners, all lined up and ready to race in Central Park.

All the youth, lined up for their race.
It was a very motivating weekend, running-wise.

Watching Shalane pull into 3rd place on the big screen while sitting in the grandstand seating at the finish was the highlight, but it was also wonderful to watch the Americans roll in and chat with Allie Kieffer's friends and family (all sporting flat Allie on popsicle sticks) and cheer her on as she moved from 11th to finish 7th.

Lots of discussion in the grandstands about tree-trimming 
that could have made things better...
Overall, it was a wonderful weekend.  Catching up with A was so good.  New York is a place I will always love to visit -- it is so alive and I adore it every time I come.  I've lost count, but I believe the current total visit count is 10ish, making it one of the cities outside of California where I've spent the most time.  Nothing's changed -- I still want to go back.