Written long ago, published today… Better late than never, eh?

Having built a solid endurance base under my legs with Ironman Chattanooga, I’ve been feeling a need for SPEED and adding hustle to my running bustle during this offseason. Ideally by 2015 I’ll become proficient at running off the bike, and the days of constantly looking over my shoulder waiting on my competition to catch up will be a foregone memory. To this end, I registered for a bunch of running races. Here are the highlights thus far…

Atlanta 10 Miler 10/26/14

Finish Time: 1:17:54 (7:48 min/mile)

AG place: 10/242

OAF: 50/1691

This race came part and parcel with the Atlanta Track Club’s Triple Peach package. Falling just a month after my first Ironman, I set my expectations low, as I did not know how my body would recover from the foreign and foolish 140.6 mile distance. What I learned:

  • Allowing runners to self-seed is a death wish. I conservatively (and mistakenly) chose the “B” wave. Apparently many folks were either delusional about their running ability (or possibly suicidal), as they sauntered up to the A wave narrowly escaping death by stampede after the gun went off.
  • A pirate theme makes the most mountainous of hills entertaining. This particular race allotted awards for the fastest times up the iconic Atlanta climb nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill”. While I was not interested in competing (having been programmed to take hills “easy up, hammer down” from tri season), I was very interested in and wildly entertained by the pirate-themed festivities that transpired. Pirates passed out water on the starrrrrboard side of the road. The climb certainly tightened up my pirate booty. I’m now “hooked” on races with themes. Ok, I’ll stop. Why would you chance missing out on the best segment of the race by actually racing it??
  • Visualization of a workout you hate isn’t an effective motivator. About a mile from the finish, I spotted a mildly vertically challenged young fellow nerdishly sporting the race-issued shirt. And I set out to catch him. He can’t be THAT fast if he wears the race shirt AT the race… I narrowed the gap approaching 17th street, but he maintained a good ten yards of distance. I turned back onto State Street with a quarter mile to go, and I remember thinking to myself just a loop around the track! (I’m not sure why that would be encouraging to me–I pretty much loathe the track and any distance is torturous). I kicked it a little more and I was breathing so heavily that I may have let out a grunt or two (a la Michael Oyler during an FTP test). The little bugger sped up too, and I cut turn into the home stretch at the tangent. Chick him in the finisher’s chute! He found gas in the tank that I certainly didn’t have and sprinted across the line ahead of me. I ungracefully stumbled after him, exhausted and a bit nauseated. Until next time, my friend.

Overall, this race successfully served its purpose as a good kick-in-the-butt to get my back into training. It’s also the first large stand-alone running race that I’m aware of that I landed top 10 in my age group. Not a shabby start.

Beer Mile 11/22/14

Finish Time: 7:51

Relay place: 4/6

Throughout the course of this quest for quick, I’ve developed a dislike/hate relationship with the track. I haven’t learned how to pace myself properly, the track nearby is an annoyingly non-standard distance, and I prefer running fast when I feel like it and running slow when I feel like it. Also, fish-bowling around in dizzying circles gets old fast. To shake things up, I replaced a track workout with a beer mile… This race was, in and of itself, a highlight.

For those unfamiliar, a beer mile entails chugging a beer and running a lap around a track. Four times. It’s become quite a thing, and athletes compete nationally for the title (http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/251607-Flo-Beer-Mile-World-Championships-2014). This particular event allowed relays, so Hilary Murdock and I joined superhero forces to take a stab at it. Prior to the event, I consulted my local liquor store to find a beer I wouldn’t mind never drinking again with exactly 5% alcohol by volume, and Coors heavy fit the bill. I headed to the track and socialized with other participants rather than warm up. I watched the waves ahead tackle the whole mile themselves taking notes. When my turn came around, I chugged the first beer like a champ and set out. By the end of the first loop, I could already feel a buzz and a full belly. Luckily I had a couple minutes to rest, regroup, and cheer on Hilary. When she came through, I had more difficulties getting the second beer down. A couple burps and down the hatch it went. Sean Donaghty will point out that I may not have completely evacuated that second beer, but that’s beside the point. The second loop was hard. I stayed on the shoulder of a gentleman with an awesome mustache and crossed the line neck and neck. As I watched Hilary bring us home, I was so very thankful I didn’t sign up to run two more of those laps.

There were some impressive performances including Matt Shectman’s winning time of 6:59 and Clare Johnson’s OAF win, which ranked her second place in the state of GA. I certainly gained a lot of insight from this race that I will take into the next beer mile. But the next one will most certainly have to entail all four loops.

Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon 11/27/14

Finish Time: 1:37:43

AG place 12/541

OAF: 52/3499

This race is an annual tradition for me since 2006 when it was my very first half marathon. I finished in 1:46:47, which remained my 13.1 PR until 2013 when I started triathlon and structured training and finished in 1:42:43, followed by 1:40:16 half mary that January. I set my sights on knocking down the 1:40 barrier at the Publix Half Marathon a few months later, but—new to exerting myself—an incident now coined “pulling a Susie” thwarted by attempt, landing me at a frustrating 1:40:51. Running fell to the back burner during the triathlon season, but I managed a 1:41:59 off the bike on the challenging course at 70.3 Mont Tremblant (a race that I wasn’t even specifically prepared for). So I entered this running season confident I could break the barrier. Highlights of this race included:

  • Spontaneity makes for memorable endurance events. My cousin Katie who, by the power of suggestion, made the decision to tackle her first 13.1 only two weeks prior to the race. With essentially no training. And she handled it like a champ! I sure hope she’s walking again by now J
  • Plans are meant to be changed. I went into this race planning to take the first few miles easy, and then go for a negative split (as long as I felt good). One mile in, I remembered this course is back-loaded with hills, so I said to Melissa McDonald, “I feel fast” and took off to bank some time in the relatively flat part.
  • History need not repeat itself. Aforementioned deviation from the plan worked! I kept a close eye on my garmin and knew that I was right on track to threaten the 1:40 wall and had enough cushion to accommodate slowing down a bit on the hills while still maintaining a strong effort. Even as I picked up the pace, there was no hint that a “Susie” was to be pulled.

Boom! 1:40 wall destroyed. And I created a wonderful calorie deficit to enjoy the two Thanksgiving dinners I subsequently enjoyed. Time to find the next plateau!

Kiawah Island Half Marathon 12/13/2014

Finish Time: 1:34:38 (7:14 min/mile)

AG place 8/220

OAF: ?

Still beaming from a 1:37 finish on a tough course at the Thanksgiving Half, I set my sights aggressively on threatening 1:35 on this relatively easier course. The weather was absolutely perfect for running. The scenery was beautiful. And the course was flat. And boring. Really not too much to report about this race except that I kicked it out of the gate much more aggressively than any other race. The plan was to go out hard and see how long I could hold on. If I bonk—no big deal. This race was essentially an excuse for a vaca with friends anyway. I found my pace dipping <7 min/miles at times and had to rein it in. I focused on consistency and a high cadence and watched the miles tick away on my Garmin. What I learned? Flat does NOT mean easy! Good lord. At the halfway point, I was on target to hit my goal. And I felt fine. By the ten mile marker, I maintained the same pace, but was already about to die. One foot in the grave. Don’t waste it, Susie! I told myself. Just hold on! Only 5K to go! Don’t waste this! So I pressed on. High cadence. Don’t slow down. I caught up to this blond chick and became determined to keep up with her. She pulled away with two miles to go, but I caught her for the last mile. I literally have never ran a tougher mile in my life. DON’T WASTE THIS SUSIE! I refused to look at my garmin. I knew I was close. Just keep going. High cadence. Keep up with the blond chick. There was a teeny tiny little bump of a hill near the end, and it felt like Mt. Kilimanjaro. And I legitimately considered walking up it. NO! Don’t waste it! I somehow made it across the finish. 1:34! Yeeesssss.

Alright, Triathlon Season. Bring it. I’m ready.