Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 7-9

The recap in which training gradually falls apart

I’ve gotten behind on these training recaps. I’ve had more than usual going on personally and professionally – some good, some bad, none expected. I had already written most of the week 7 recap, so it’s more detailed than the others.

Week 7: 1/25 – 1/31


  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:00/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Um, totally forgot the strides, but it was a gorgeous day for a lunchtime run. I decided to go ahead and deal with the nuisance of getting a running photo, which I promptly forgot to Instagram.

atlanta beltline running

So I’ll add my graffiti running photo to the Internet’s collection.

Seriously, this was more of an ordeal than it was worth, and I seriously wonder how people who Instagram running photos multiple times a week do it. #shareyoursecrets

I went to the gym for my strength workout, and it was – unfortunately – a day to get the opportunity to check off new feats of strength to see how strong you’re getting! Unfortunate because I get way too competitive with myself in these kinds of situations and work harder than I should considering I’m also training for a marathon. So shortsighted. Anyway, the feats of strength were related to variations of squats, strict pull-ups, and bar dips. I did a lot better with dips than pull-ups, and right now I’m just not limber enough to do what’s next for squats, which is a full butt-to-heel pistol squat. After attempting the feats of strength, there was a workout to challenge the muscles I had just worked to failure – pull-up negatives, rows, stuff like that – so it was hard. Even lunges with racked kettlebells made my arms feel like chicken wings.


  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day

HOLY MOTHER OF DOMS. There was not one direction that I could move my arms without nearly recoiling from the soreness.


  • Plan: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

The thought of swinging my arms for just an easy run would have brought me to tears, so after a full day of lecture-style training with a nasty headache, no way was I getting through a faster workout, even if it was a relatively easy cutback-week workout. No unplanned rest day has ever been such a no-brainer.


  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + mini-strength

Annnnddd we’re back. I didn’t get to this workout until after dark, so I decided to take it to the treadmill in my office gym. The faster portion was fine, but the other miles were so boring.

I didn’t have time to get a proper strength workout in, and my upper body was still pretty angry, but I did a mini-strength workout focused on lower body after my rehab exercises. My office gym has a few kettlebells, so I did 3 sets of 20 kettlebell swings, 3 sets of 10 kettlebell deadlifts, 2 sets of 10 goblet squats, and 2 sets of 10 Bulgarian split squats.


  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I thought about skipping the rest day and taking this run really easy, but I ran about one minute and decided my body needed the day off.


  • Plan: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:25) + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 9:52/mile + 4 strides

Slacked on the Myrtls. GUILTY.

I’ve had a couple pairs of shoes wear out on me lately, and since I’ve had an injury recently, I decided to head over to see what the pros recommended shoe-wise.

I don’t want to take over this post with the nitty gritty of what went down (although I learned some interesting things that may warrant a future post), but a proper video analysis at West Stride confirmed what I expected – mostly neutral/slightly supinated gait. I tried on a few pairs in the “daily trainer” category, and to my surprise I ended up in the Brooks Ghost. I’ve previously tried out Brooks shoes from the Pure line, which never really felt quite right on my foot. But the Ghosts were the shoes that felt so comfortable on, fit like a glove, and allowed me to go through a comfortable stride without feeling like I had to really “muscle through” any part of my stride (unlike others I tried).



  • Plan: Yoga
  • Actual: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:21/8:59/9:09) + 26 minutes core + 15 min stretching-oriented yoga

The elusive marathon pace. I’m not of the mind that “I ran faster, yay me” because I don’t feel like I’m ready to run a whole marathon at those paces, so I kind of screwed up the point of the workout by running faster than I should have. But it did feel nice at the time.

During the GMP miles, I felt my shorts chafing my right thigh, but decided to sacrifice my skin for the confidence that would come with executing my GMP miles. I implore you, please never do this to yourselves. One week has passed and my skin is still not 100%. Once I was finished with the run, I looked down and saw blood all over my right thigh. This wasn’t just a slight chafe.

silver comet running

You didn’t think I was going to show a bloody chafe photo, did you? I’m far too queasy to ever see blood on purpose.

Week 7: 23 miles

As for my resolutions to run healthy in 2016:

  • Rehab/core work – C: I did 3/4 of the planned core/rehab/Myrtl routines on my schedule.
  • Sleep – B: I hit my 8 hour goal every night except one, but I didn’t feel rested. Most nights, I was waking up in the middle of the night and I’d have a hard time going back to sleep. By Thursday, I was exhausted and went to bed before 9pm, which may have helped me “reset” – I haven’t had serious sleep interruptions since then.
  • Nutrition – C: I’m going to have to find a reliable way to track my fruits and veggies. I didn’t do it this week. I know I had some good days, but the point was to actually keep track.
  • “Body maintenance” – B: I did the bare minimum of stretching and foam rolling, and I checked the box with Sunday yoga, but after moving my schedule around I wasn’t up for much more.

I didn’t track these resolutions over weeks 8 & 9.

Week 8: 2/1 – 2/7


  • Plan: 3 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:20/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Felt some discomfort near the bottom-inside portion of my left thigh, close to my left knee. UGH.


  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Rest

I was at work late (unexpectedly), then saw my late night as an opportunity to let whatever was bothering me on Monday’s run rest and heal.


  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo, :90 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest day

I had a morning dermatologist appointment, and I told the doctor I’d had my eye on this spot on my chest. He said it didn’t concern him much, but he’d do a biopsy to be safe. This was my first skin biopsy, and it took more skin than I expected. When the nurse gave me care instructions for the wound, one of the explicit instructions was to keep it dry for a day.

Me: So, does that mean I can’t go for a run?

Nurse: Well, do you sweat when you run?

Me: [head drops] yes.


  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo (8:35/8:32/8:28) + rehab exercises + strength

Left quad pain was still there, maybe at a 3/10 on the pain scale.


  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Chiro + 3 miles @ 10:08/mile + Myrtls

I got in to see my chiro that morning, who worked on the area and diagnosed insufficient quad strength as a contributing factor. He gave me an exercise to do, which I could do at my desk (it’s just using the quads to straighten the knee from a bent position).

My run did not go well. I had to stop around the end of the second mile to stretch/massage that spot in my quad. It started bugging my left knee a little bit as well. I skipped the strides.


  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 1.6 miles @10:42/mile + lots of foam rolling

Since I’d moved my tempo run to Thursday, the plan was just to get in 3 easy miles and some strides. I stopped as soon as there was discomfort – no point in sabotaging the long run.


  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 15 miles @ 11:04/mile + core

This run was horrible on so many levels. 1) I didn’t feel fit at all. 2) that spot in my left quad was bugging me for the majority of the run. 3) I was angry at everyone and everything because of 1&2. (How dare that asshole on the bike pass me so quickly? Brag about your modern technology a little more, jerk.)

In the last 6 miles or so, I made a concerted effort to be positive. One thing I noticed was that my right ITB didn’t hurt at all. That was the best thing I could come up with (and it was indeed a good thing!)

I got home and alas, my right ITB felt like the last two months of rehab hadn’t happened. Mega pissed. Mega discouraged. I don’t have anything positive to say, other than I’m glad I have other things going on right now to distract me from how training is going (or, not going, as the case may be).


Current mood.

Week 8: 30 miles

Week 9: 2/8 – 2/14


  • Plan: 4 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Nada

Right knee at ITB insertion point hurt just walking around. Lot of ice. Lot of foam rolling. Panicked call to the chiropractor’s office.


  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Chiro + rest

My chiro was out of town, so I got squeezed in to see his partner, Dr. Glass (who is so nice – I really love their practice). Dr. Glass wasn’t as concerned about the whole situation as I was, seeming to think it was just a setback. As he was testing my hip range of motion while I was lying on my stomach, it was so obvious that my right hip isn’t moving nearly as well as my left. The difference was pronounced.

I got some homework which is just a simple variation on foam rolling + static stretching, but I really like it. The idea is to sandwich some light static stretching into your foam rolling – so if you’re rolling your quads, take a break in the middle and do 5 5-second static stretches, then resume rolling. As for hip mobility, Dr. Glass’s recommendation was just to do a few leg swings intermittently throughout the day. So simple. That I can do.

He recommended a test run Thursday, and to do my long run on a loop so I could stop if needed.


  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3-5 @ tempo + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

I considered going to the gym and cross-training, but after staying late at work again, I decided to focus on rolling and stretching. Oh, and I found out Jeff had the flu. Influenza B. So there was some care taking involved.


  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 3 mile test run @ 10:30/mile + rehab exercises + PT

This run didn’t feel too bad. I could sense that my quad pain was worse the more I flexed my knee, and I also felt a dull ache under my left kneecap post-run.

I had a PT appointment, and holy smokes did that spot in my quad freak out when he needled it. I felt cautiously optimistic that it would really help.


  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I was pretty sore from the needling. Much needed day off.


  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:15/mile + strides + Myrtls

I really got after the foam rolling and stretching post-run. I felt ready to take on my 16 miler after this run.


  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 8 miles @ 10:37/mile + core

I normally actively avoid repeating loop routes for a long run, so the loop I chose was one I’m not terribly familiar with, and it really wasn’t ideal (unavoidable road camber + too much opposing traffic to get off the side of the road). I called it quits shortly into the 9th mile. My left quad and right ITB had been feeling angry, then my left ITB started hurting. I felt like collapsing on the ground in dramatic fashion, but I would have probably hurt something else picking myself up. So I just stopped running and walked the rest of the way back.

None of the pain was horribly acute, and if it had been a race, I absolutely could have kept running. My level of discomfort felt about like last week’s run did, which sidelined me for several days. I hope that by cutting it short, I gave myself a fighting chance to get back on track with my training. What I did last week didn’t work, so I’ll just try something different and hope for the best.

Week 9: 14 miles

Right now I don’t have anything positive to say about training. I don’t want to train for a marathon anymore. If I were training for the Publix Marathon or something else close by, I would absolutely throw in the towel and let all this junk heal properly before training for another race. Any hopes of a PR in Paris are wild dreams right now. All I can hope for right now is to be healthy enough to continue training, finish the race, and stuff myself with croissants, cheeses, and Bordeaux when it’s done.


Paris Marathon Training – Week 3

Whew! After last week’s Christmas Adventures Across Tennessee, I was happy to spend a laid-back week at home. I watched a lot of football and got to play with my new Christmas toys, especially my pizza stone! As of today (Sunday), I have made 5 pizzas in the past week. Maybe I will get sick of it someday.

Week 3: 12/28-1/3


  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises
  • Actual: Travel to ATL + 30 min spinning + rehab exercises

Not the greatest cross-training session ever: I couldn’t get my wireless headphones to connect to my phone, and about 15 minutes of the 30 were spent halfheartedly spinning while fiddling with the headphones.


  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 3 miles easy @ 10:05/mile + strides + core

I went back to the Beltline for a nice run with the weather still in the 60s! As is my game day superstition, I planned my run outfit in Baylor’s school colors. For a while, I had been guiltily eyeing these overpriced fancy black and gold-reflective shorts from Lululemon, so I was happy to snap them up once they were marked down to well over 50% off. The game was a huge success for the Bears, and I’m pretty sure my spirit was a contributing factor.


  • Plan: 5 miles w/ last 2 @ steady pace + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 5 miles: warmup @ 10:31/mile, last 2 8:57/8:53 + rehab exercises

Jeff is in grad school at Georgia Tech, so he let me join him as a guest to Tech’s huge and really nice gym. This was my first “workout” in several weeks, so I’m out of practice being uncomfortable. This run wasn’t too terribly hard, but I’m glad my plan is easing me into more challenging workouts.

georgia tech rec center

The gym was closing as I was finishing up my rehab exercises. I did maybe 10 min of yoga  poses focusing on hip flexibility before heading out.


  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day + New Year’s Eve

I cleaned house all day – no fun but much needed – then we joined our friends Randy and Sarah to ring in the new year with football and pizza. I got to use my new pizza stone, which was a gift from Jeff – it was perfect because I have been contemplating buying one for over a year but never pulled the trigger. (It is also a perfect gift for him because he gets pizza out of it.) I’m not great at working with the dough, so my pizzas are oddly shaped.



  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides +  Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:18/mile + 4 strides + Myrtl + New Year’s Day

I went back to the soft, flat half-mile loop I’d been running during week 1. One of the downsides of this spot is that it doesn’t drain well when there’s been a lot of rain, so this was the first day I thought it might not be a giant mud puddle. There were a few puddles left, and geese were loving the puddles.

piedmont park geese atlanta

I did not eat any black eyed peas this New Year’s Day, so I suppose there goes my prosperity for the year.


  • Plan: 10 miles + core
  • Actual: 10 miles @ 10:01/mile + core

My IT band pain had been bothering me on and off since Wednesday’s run, so I was pretty nervous for this run. I almost put it off until Sunday. I drove out to an asphalt rail-trail that is long enough to do a full out and back. If you’ve ever taken much time off from running, you probably know the feeling of your stride being awkward and the motion of running feeling labored (or is that just me?). This run was the closest I’ve felt in the last three weeks to running feeling natural, a sensation that felt like my body would run whether or not my brain told it to. I was encouraged by how the day went and hope that runs like this one become more frequent!

running trail cobb county


  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 15 min bodyweight strength work + 75 min gentle yoga

I spent Sunday enjoying the last of my days off for the holidays. I don’t think my Fitbit even registered 5000 steps! I did a quick 15 minute set of bodyweight strength exercises focused on hips, glutes, and hamstrings, then caught a gentle yoga class.

Week 3: 21 miles

This week went as well as I could have hoped. I got in all my workouts – not too much of a challenge given that I didn’t have a full work week – but they went as well as I could have expected.

How did you spend your New Year? Do you eat black eyed peas every year, or pass?

RnR Savannah / St. Jude Half Marathon Training: Weeks 14-15

For those who have been keeping up with my training (hi Mom!), I’ve been working toward building mileage cautiously after August training went off the rails and September was a battle (often a losing one) for consistency.

Good news – it worked! I managed to increase my mileage without getting injured, and I’m caught back up to my training plan.

Week 14: 31 miles

This was a cutback/mini-taper week before the Atlanta 10 Miler.

Monday, 10/19 


Tuesday, 10/20

  • Plan: 7 miles: mile 3 @ tempo + 8×1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog rest; core; strength training
  • Actual: 7 miles: mile 3 @ 8:41 + 6×1:00 @ 8:12/mi average; strength training

I read the workout wrong, and did 6 1-minute repeats instead of 8. The world shall not end; however, I will work on my reading comprehension skills.

I got to deadlift again in the strength workout (5 sets: 1 warmup set of 10; 4 sets of 5). Last week I eased into it by focusing on form and keeping the weight pretty low at 105 lbs. This week I did a couple of sets of 5 at 110 before increasing to 115 for the remaining sets. Still, it didn’t feel too challenging to hold good form; also, hooray for no SI joint pain!

Wednesday, 10/21

  • Plan: 3 mile recovery run
  • Actual: 3 mile recovery run

Thursday, 10/22

  • Plan: 5 miles easy + 4 strides; hips/glutes
  • Actual: 5 miles + 4 strides; hips/glutes

After an otherwise unremarkable run, I was running strides and somehow hit a gear that I hadn’t hit in a while. It reminded me why strides are fun: it takes you back to running as a kid, without regard for paces or splits. (Side note: if you’re not running strides, give it a try! I like this explainer for the newbie to strides.)

Friday, 10/23

Rest day. For once, I wasn’t totally craving the rest day; this was probably because of the cutback in mileage. My cousin was in town with her husband for a conference, so she ditched the conference, and we went out for a delicious dinner at Rathbun’s. All of our food was delicious, but a real unexpected delight was the side of creamed corn.

Saturday, 10/24

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides
  • Actual: 3 miles easy + 4 strides

Thanks to Oiselle for making green Mac Rogas. #sicembears

I got the run done on a fun football Saturday and wore green and white in honor of the Baylor homecoming game. All I did all day was run, watch football, and eat delicious foods. It was fantastic.

Sunday, 10/25:

  • Plan: 2 mile warm-up, 10 mile race, 2 mile cool-down
  • Actual: 1.5 mile warm-up, Atlanta 10 Miler (1:28:31), 1.5 mile cool-down

I mentioned this in my race recap, but I’m really awful at getting in the warm-up and cool-down miles called for – this time, parking a little over a mile from the race was the only thing that forced me to do it (although short by a half mile each way).

After the race, I tried to take an ice bath, which was pretty unsuccessful in my stall shower. 😛

Week 15: 40 miles

Monday, 10/26

REST. Sweet rest. Much needed. This week, we also learned that cats are predators who would like to kill us. As far as I can tell, Lucy has given up this dream and focuses her predatory instincts on her yarn ball and extracting extra kibble from her feeder. (I like this photo because she does look kind of creepy.)

Tuesday, 10/27

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides; core
  • 3 miles + 4 strides; 15 minutes of core work

Super boring easy-paced treadmill run after work on a rainy day. I had packed stuff for running in the rain, but I wasn’t feeling it.

Wednesday, 10/28

  • Plan: 7 miles: 8×1:00 @ 10k pace, 2:00 recovery; strength training
  • Actual: 7 miles: 8×1:00 @ 8:08/mile average; strength training

I felt like $1 million after the extra recovery day from my race, and I ran my workout a bit faster than I should have. The good news was that it didn’t feel very challenging. I think the extra recovery day worked wonders.

Thursday, 10/29

  • Plan: 8 miles + 4 strides; hips/glutes; strength training
  • Actual: 9 miles + 4 strides, strength training

I inadvertently added about a mile to my run. I took a different turn to avoid stopping at a red light, and I’d run nearly a half mile when I realized I had to backtrack to my original route. I ran strides after the 8 mile mark (I found a really nice flat stretch there), then jogged home extra-easy.

Friday, 10/30

Ah, rest day. The Friday rest day was much appreciated this week.

Saturday, 10/31

  • Plan: 16 miles
  • Actual: 16 miles @ 10:32/mile

After suffering on hills in the 10 Miler last weekend, I decided to do my long run on the same hilly route that ate me alive for a few 9-12 mile runs earlier in the training cycle. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get into a rhythm on this run. During mile 12, I did a few short uphill surges at a medium-hard effort, which was pretty fun.

Fall is here! Please stay a while, fall.

Sunday, 11/1

  • Plan: 5 mile recovery run
  • Actual: 5 mile recovery run; Myrtl routine

I had a nice recovery run on a hilly route, although I probably should have found something a little flatter after the hilly long run the day before. I did the Myrtl routine – a quick hip-focused set of exercises – after my run. I was doing this routine more consistently earlier in the year, and it felt good to get back to it. It’s not too strenuous, so it’s great for a recovery run day.

What’s next:

This week is the RnR Savannah Half Marathon. I have another cutback/baby-taper week leading up to the race. Last year, I ran 1:55:53 in this race in good weather. This year, the forecast isn’t looking great: the forecasted low has increased from 65 degrees to 68 degrees, and with rain expected all week, there’s no doubt it will be humid.

I don’t think it makes sense to put all my eggs in the PR basket for this race, especially with St. Jude coming up in December. The heat and humidity could get me in trouble if I try to run an exact Garmin pace. My plan is to wear the Garmin so I can nerd out on the data post-race, but I don’t plan to look at it too often during the race.

I plan to aim for a sub-1:55 half in Memphis, so this race will more or less a dress rehearsal to gauge where I am fitness-wise on a flat course. If I can run close to the time I ran last year, I’ll feel like I’m in great shape to run a fast race in Memphis.

Anyone else racing in Savannah this weekend?

What are your thoughts on racing in humidity?

Atlanta 10 Miler Race Recap

If you read here much, you know I don’t like running hills. I’m not good at them. I’m always surprised if I pass anyone while running up a hill.

The Atlanta 10 Miler is a nemesis of a race for me because it has so many hills, and steep ones at that. Last year, I ran the 10 Miler on a whim as part of a 17 mile training run. I gave it a marathon-pace effort. That was challenging, but not nearly as challenging as trying to race the thing.


Packet pickup was at Big Peach Brookhaven or Big Peach Alpharetta. I don’t know how these locations were chosen, because Big Peach’s Midtown location (not to mention several other running specialty stores) is much closer to the race than either Brookhaven or Alpharetta. There was a lot of traffic and road construction in Brookhaven, and the surrounding area was a mess. The volunteers were great and had no control over the traffic chaos, but the pickup location could have been thought out better.

Pickup was easy. Runners were able to look up their bib numbers beforehand, or or the volunteers could look it up quickly. Packet, safety pins, and you’re on your way. A+ for organization.

The night before the race, our friend Ben grilled up a ton of meats and vegetables from our favorite farmers’ market. Not traditional carb loading, but I am not particular about what I eat the night before a long run (aside from things that I know don’t work for me – no super spicy food or loads of dairy). It was delicious.

We watched a couple of football games, and I tried to go to sleep early. That didn’t work very well – I finally fell asleep between 11:30 and midnight.


Celebrating the Georgia Tech win with a great surrender cobra in the background.

Race Day

The race starts at 7:30, so I woke up with my alarm at 5:30 and had my regular pre-run breakfast – oatmeal and coffee – by about 6. I had a glass of water when I woke up and sipped a glass of Gatorade over the course of an hour. I left for the race just after 6:30.

The plan was to do a dynamic warm-up, run a couple warm-up miles, then do a few strides before the race. I parked in Midtown, a little over a mile from the race, to avoid traffic (later, I heard the parking at Atlantic Station was well-organized). I did my warm-up on the sidewalk in the dark and ran a warm-up mile before I realized I’d started warming up a bit too early. Hhhhhhh. I walked around to stay kind of warm, stood in the portapotty line (VERY long; I gave up), jogged another half mile, tried to run a few strides (hard to do in a crowded area!) and got in the corral about 5 minutes before the start. I was pretty disorganized before the start of the race, but at least I didn’t feel like I was starting the race cold.

The weather was in the low 60s with 90% humidity – not ideal racing conditions, but could be a lot worse.

The Race

I knew I wanted to run this race by feel, because any pace data I’d get from my watch would be affected by the hills. My plan went like this:

  1. First half: run at an effort slightly easier than a tempo run
  2. Miles 5-Cardiac Hill (mile 7.5 or so): tempo effort
  3. To the finish: hang on & race
  4. To keep my effort honest on the hills, especially early in the race, I told myself not to let it “hurt” until Cardiac Hill
10 miler elevation

Elevation chart for the race

As for goals, I thought I was capable of between 1:25 and 1:30. My fastest 10 mile effort in a race was the last 10 miles of Savannah last year, at 1:27:57. I hoped to finish below 1:28.

Mile 1: 8:50

This mile loops around Atlantic Station and past the townhomes on 16th Street. It’s mostly gradual inclines with a couple of steeper climbs and one noticeable downhill. I focused on listening to my breathing, keeping my effort in check, and not letting the race excitement get to me. I wouldn’t realize it until later, but this was exactly the pace I wanted to run early in the race.

Mile 2: 8:57

I used to live near this part of the course, which includes the “Northside Hill of Death.” This hill is not that long, but it’s steep enough to be demoralizing. I focused on keeping my cadence high and a consistent effort through the hill, which resulted in nearly everyone passing me! After that hill, there’s a stretch of mostly downhill running.

Mile 3: 8:27

The third mile has a couple of small climbs, but it’s mostly downhill. I didn’t pick up the effort at all, but the downhills helped my pace. There was one downhill stretch that I remember being too steep to be beneficial, but most of this mile was nice easy declines.

Miles 4: 8:57

At the 5k mark, there’s a nasty uphill beginning on Alden and going all the way down 26th Street. It’s worse than the Northside death-hill. I couldn’t run this hill slow enough to stay in a “comfortably hard” effort level. I got dropped by everyone around me. At this point in the race, I began seeing many of the same runners pass me on uphills, and I’d pass them on downhills. The rest of the mile is peppered with short inclines and short drops – some of which were pretty steep. I thought this was the worst mile of the course, including Cardiac Hill.

Mile 5: 9:09 (Official time through 5 miles: 44:08; 8:50/mile average)

Mile 5 is more of the same. Up and down, up and down. In trying to keep a consistent effort level, I ended up slowing a bit – this is where those longer tempo runs that went so poorly earlier in the training cycle could have helped me.

Mile 6: 8:50

I let myself pick it up a little once I was halfway. There was a great cheer zone in this mile – I think it was a high school group from Decatur. They lined both sides of the street and were so enthusiastic (thanks to you guys!). I think this mile is easier than some of the others simply because the hills are a little more gradual.

On a downhill, I caught up to a girl who was dropping me with ease on every hill. I introduced myself and asked the secret to her hill-running prowess. Her only secret was that she was using the race as a last training run / dress rehearsal for the NYC Marathon, so she wasn’t racing all-out.

I took a Gu near the end of mile 6.

Mile 7: 8:46

There’s another climb in the first half of mile 7, and again, a lot of people passed me running up the hill. The Atlanta Track Club had a “Conquer Cardiac Hill” challenge that extended from about three-quarters through mile 7 to three-quarters through mile 8. The one-mile timed “race-within-a-race” started with a nice downhill before including the hill-before-Cardiac-Hill (if you’ve run the Peachtree Road Race, you know the one), a brief downhill, and the beast itself. I think mile 7 ends right as the hills begin.

Mile 8: 9:20 (official time for Conquer Cardiac Hill: 8:57)

This was the mile that included the big hills, as my Garmin seemed to indicate. I kicked up my effort, but I wasn’t ready to go all-out with a couple miles left in the race. I engaged my glutes, kept a quick cadence, and gave it a hard effort. I’m not sure why there’s such a discrepancy between my Garmin time for mile 8 and my time for the Cardiac Hill mile. Perhaps I unintentionally slowed after the “finish line” at the end of the Conquer Cardiac Hill challenge, or my Garmin may have been a bit off.

There were several lively cheer stations along this mile that I vaguely remember being awesome and super encouraging, but I was so zoned into the race I don’t remember much else. I can’t thank the people who came out and volunteered/cheered enough!

Mile 9: 8:43

Mile 9 starts with a downhill before the grade turns upward again past the Amtrak station. I tried to stay with a few guys who were running easy after doing the Cardiac Hill mile in around 6 minutes, but I couldn’t stick with them once we started running uphill again. I felt like I was barely moving when I got to the top of that hill, but I turned a corner and the course started bouncing up and down again. Another hill – the second-to-last of the course – started within sight of the 9 mile marker. At this point, I was close enough to start trying to race the three women I’d been back and forth with the whole race. I ran quite hard up the hill to keep them in my sight. It felt good to finally pass more people than were passing me.

Mile 10: 8:22

There is one more relatively modest hill on the course in the first half of mile 10 before the course descends to Atlantic Station. The volunteers let us know that it was the last hill, so I used all the strength I’d been conserving and ran strong up the hill straight into the pain cave, past one of the women I was trying to catch. The rest of the race was all pain cave.

I saw the NYC marathon girl up ahead and surged to catch her. She was running at a pretty good clip, and I hung on to her pace for a minute until I decided I could pick up the pace a little more. When we turned into Atlantic Station, I caught one more woman that I’d seen throughout the race. I didn’t kick at the end, I just tried to focus on staying smooth and relaxed while running hard to the finish.

Atlanta 10 miler10 mile race

Official time: 1:28:31 (8:52/mile)

Not quite good enough for a PR, but still a solid effort that I’m proud of, especially the almost-even split between the first and second halves of the race. I’m glad to have gotten out of my comfort zone before my upcoming half marathons.

First race in the 30-34 AG.

Post-Race & Swag

medal photoI was dazed after crossing the finish line – this photo was taken while I was trying to be cute and wave to the camera (why do I look annoyed?).

At the finish, instead of a Mylar blanket, the volunteers were handing out what appeared to be a reusable grocery bag, but turned out to be a zip-up poncho made of reusable grocery bag material. Even though it wasn’t cool enough to need them, I hope more races go to these ponchos instead of Mylar blankets, especially windy ones.

All I wanted after the race was a banana, but I grabbed a PowerAde from a volunteer and started drinking it while I looked for a banana. I realized that there were no bagels or bananas, just a box of packaged foods that didn’t sound appealing.

I did a cool-down jog to the car – not quite 1.5 miles – nice and slow. I think I feel better after doing a little jogging post-race, but it’s so hard to be motivated to do it.

The swag for this race is pretty good. The shirt was a long-sleeve Mizuno half-zip with thumbholes that ran surprisingly large. I ordered a women’s small, and it’s baggier than I’d like. The medal is nice too – I like that it’s simple without any glitter.

Bottom Line

This race is mostly very scenic and runs through a really pretty neighborhood of Atlanta. The hills don’t make it a PR friendly race, but it’s a good time of year and distance for a tune-up race, or even a goal race if hills are your thing.

The race was very well organized. There were volunteers and police all over the course, and it felt very safe. Atlanta Track Club puts on excellent races, so this is no surprise to me. The parking logistics, had I parked at the race, were also very good – there is a garage at Atlantic Station that was open for race participants (I believe it was $5).

The race is a nice size: about 6,000 participants. It’s big enough to have good amenities, but small enough to run efficiently. It’s also reasonably priced – I registered for about $50 earlier in the year, and October pricing (before the race sold out) was about $80.

I have to nitpick to think of ways to improve this race. I mentioned the packet pick-up difficulties and the really large race shirt. I was also disappointed by the food at the end of the race. None of these items were significant enough to impact my decision to run this race again in the future.

Do you have a go-to race warm-up/cool-down routine? How do you structure a warm-up with race logistics in a larger race?

Do you prefer to race with or without a Garmin? Why?

Does anyone have the secret to running hills faster? I’m tired of being the slowest hill runner.

An Interview with Tom Foreman

Tom Foreman’s new book, My Year of Running Dangerously, has been getting a lot of positive attention since its release last week. I was thrilled to get to preview his book (see my book review). Once I read the book and felt like I already knew Tom, I was even more excited to get the opportunity to ask him a few questions about topics ranging from his most recent running adventures, to the public figure he’d most like to go for a run with (the answer surprised me!).

Don’t forget that if you’re in Atlanta this Saturday, you can meet Tom at the Georgia Tech Barnes & Noble! The event begins at 10:30 am – see the event page for more details.

Sarah: Let’s start by picking up where your book left off. Where has running taken you since the Stone Mill 50?

Tom: Since the first Stone Mill in late 2011, I have run numerous half marathons, several more full marathons, (most recently completing the Chicago Marathon yesterday, October 11, 2015 – my lifetime marathon count is now at 12) and I have completed two more ultra marathons, each over 50 miles.

Sarah: My job isn’t nearly as visible or exciting as yours, but it does require me to travel and keep some unpredictable hours. A moment in the book that I particularly related to was when you wrote about your long run in the dark near Las Vegas. What advice can you give to those who want to train around their busy lives or travel schedules?

Tom: Making priorities is not a catch phrase. It requires serious thinking and planning about what matters to you. You have to look at the clock honestly, imagine all the blocks of time you have committed in your day, and figure out when you can make running work. That may mean running early or late. It may mean grabbing a quick bite and running while the rest of your co-workers enjoy lunch or dinner. That said, I think we have to work just as hard at our jobs and relationships as we do at running so that those who rely on us don’t grow jealous of our road time and turn something positive into a negative.

Sarah: Do you follow a structured training schedule these days, or do you go out and run for fun and fitness? Which do you prefer and why?

Tom: I do both. When I am training for a specific race I find that a set training schedule is freeing. It allows me to focus on the quality of the runs rather than worrying about whether my plan is solid. However, when I don’t have a particular goal I like making it up day by day – some road time, some trail time -heedless of my watch or distances. A good mix between disciplined and casual running seems the best way for me to avoid staleness and excessive fatigue.

Sarah: What has been the most noticeable change you’ve seen in yourself since returning to running in your 50s, whether physical, mental or emotional?

Tom: Physically the most notable changes are lower weight, better sleep, a slower pulse, and far less concern about things like blood pressure. I need more recovery time after a hard run as I get older, but that is a small, pleasant price. Mentally running has made me more alert, productive and optimistic. In a word, I’m happier.

Sarah: I understand you’ve pounded some pavement in Atlanta. What’s your favorite neighborhood or route to run?

tom foreman route atlanta

An approximate map of Tom’s favorite route in Atlanta. The man loves his hills.

Tom: I enjoy starting at Georgia Tech near Bobby Dodd Stadium and heading east on North Avenue. I follow it up and down the hills, past the Masquerade, through the neighborhoods, past Freedom Park, and around the south end of Candler Park. Then I turn north on Clifton Road to catch Ponce De Leon west through Druid Hills, until I cut north to Piedmont Park for a quick loop before coming down Peachtree and across the Interstate on 10th to wrap up a nice ten miles back on GT’s campus. Oh, and I may stop for a doughnut at Krispy Kreme along the way.

Sarah: What public figure or celebrity would you most like to go for a run with? Why?

Tom: Prince. I think he runs. Anyway, he is a hugely talented and interesting guy, and you have such great conversations while running I think that would be a blast.

Many thanks to Tom for the interview! I really enjoyed getting to know him a little better after reading his book, and I’m looking forward to meeting him in person on Saturday. I hope to see many of you there. 

Book Review: Tom Foreman’s My Year of Running Dangerously

Running is about more than just pounding the pavement. It involves sliding into the proper state of mind. Getting into the groove. You have to reach far down to find that delightful slice of Zen that comes only when you breathe deeply, your thighs burn, and your heart thunders.

CNN correspondent Tom Foreman’s new book, My Year of Running Dangerously, chronicles his journey from occasional jogger to ultramarathoner over the course of the year. If this sounds crazy to you, you’re not wrong. 10% rule be damned!

Over that year, Tom ran the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, the Publix Georgia Marathon, the National Half Marathon, the Gettysburg Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Parks Half Marathon, and the Stone Mill 50. This book isn’t a how-to about the technical aspects of running and training, although Tom devotes plenty of pages to discussing road racing and trail running, all with a characteristic self-deprecating sense of humor.

Tom writes candidly about how his family life, relationships, and responsibilities as a CNN journalist covering the 2012 presidential election fit around his training and racing. He does all this with a sense of humor and honesty about his struggles and self-doubt. “Doubt,” he writes, “is a constant companion of distance runners.”

Tom’s inspiration to begin his year of running was his young daughter’s ambition. On Thanksgiving, his 18-year-old daughter Ronnie – then a freshman at Georgia Tech – asked him to train for a marathon with her.

Naturally, Tom’s relationship with Ronnie is central to his story. Tom writes about Ronnie as an admiring father: it is Ronnie, even more than Tom, who is the voice of wisdom in the book. Ronnie’s voice of wisdom becomes evident when she sets ground rules for marathon training with her dad: 1) be honest, 2) whatever the schedule calls for, we do, 3) no one gets left behind.

Tom’s work with CNN required him to train in unfamiliar places, and sometimes during odd hours of the day. He recounts a long run in the Las Vegas area when he got lost after dark. I couldn’t help but chuckle and nod my head with understanding as he described the apocalyptic scenarios that entered his head while he was unsure of his location or if he would ever make it back:

I gauged the angle of the asphalt by impact, and guessed where my next step should fall. I knew I could easily miscalculate, break an ankle, and tumble off into a ravine. If I went down out here I would not be found until the next day at the earliest, long after the cold and critters had done their worst.

Halfway through his book, Tom begins training for the Stone Mill 50, a 50 mile trail race. Ultramarathoning, especially on trails, presents unique challenges. Describing the long miles and hours required to prepare for the race, Tom writes, “It was like making time to watch Gone with the Wind each morning before breakfast.”

After initially struggling with the cuts, bruises, falls, and hills that vexed him as a new trail runner, Tom draws inspiration from Thoreau. He learns to enjoy his daily date with the trails of Maryland, even if those days are occasionally interrupted by phone calls of breaking news relating to Iran’s missile and nuclear programs.

Besides the daunting mileage and technical trails, in his ultra training Tom encounters a struggle familiar to many of us in the distance running community: finding balance. He realizes that his wife Linda – while she is patient and encouraging – is really tired of his absence and his incessant running chatter. On a visit to Atlanta to see Ronnie, she provides this wisdom from her own marathon training experience and her aerospace engineering studies at Georgia Tech:

You can put the biggest engine you want into a rocket, but if the rest of the spacecraft can’t handle all that energy, it’s going to blow to pieces. You’ve got to have balance. I realized after I finished the marathon that running one is not so tough. Doing it without letting the rest of your life fall apart is the challenge.

Tom adds additional insight to this thought:

This is a thought that is often overlooked in all the inspirational running books and websites. Plenty of writers talk about mind over matter and about runners “willing” themselves to the finish line, but precious few address the possibility that maybe doggedly chasing a goal is not enough.

The last several chapters of the book are devoted to what I’ll call the best race recap I’ve ever read: Tom’s recap of the Stone Mill 50.

Before the race, Tom reflects on the experience of Edison Peña, a Chilean miner who was trapped in a mine in 2010 for 69 days during his marathon training. While underground, he continued training, and ran the New York City Marathon less than a month after being rescued.

Tom discusses the mental battle that is the 50 mile trail race, the camaraderie of the ultra community, his pacing errors, and a few notable characters he encounters. He contemplates a DNF, resolves to “forcefeed (himself) like a pet lizard,” feels pain down to his bones, falls in streams, and at 40 miles describes himself as looking like “Larry King emerging from the desert.”

I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil his account of the Stone Mill 50. When I read it, I felt concerned and a little nauseous at times. I laughed, I winced, and I felt the highs and lows of the experience as if I were there with him.

After the race, Tom’s younger daughter Ali asks him why he ran the Stone Mill 50. In his response he tells Ali, “I stopped getting through my days, and I started getting into them. I guess I ran this race because I didn’t want that to end.”

Through experiencing this year of running dangerously, Tom and his entire family gained a love of running – all four of the Foremans are now running distance races. Yet, from Tom’s experience with the Stone Mill 50, his family gained valuable perspective:

Running isn’t the dominant force in our household. We like it, but primarily because it helps us enjoy our lives more than we have for some years…We all do a better job of putting aside our daily challenges and frustrations to enjoy our fleeting moments together…We laugh more, hug more, and dance more…

This is the real reason I love running like an idiot against the miles, against the calendar, and against the odds. Running puts me in touch with the moment, and reminds me how each one is rare and precious…

I run to show my daughters that life is worth more than just living. It is worth living deeply and passionately, in a way that looks forward and sees an endless road – inevitable and ideal.

As much as Mr. Foreman’s book is about running, it’s also a book about relationships. Tom is candid about his struggles to find balance between running, work, and family/friends. Ronnie understands this struggle and often gives him advice based on her own perspective and relationships. Tom’s wife, Linda, perseveres in encouraging him even when she’s sick of all the time he spends training, and Tom works to find a balance that works for his marriage. Their youngest daughter, Ali, is the the clever voice of non-running wisdom. Her witty quips remind Tom that his training is his choice, and he should enjoy it!

If you’re a distance runner, an aspiring distance runner, love someone who is a distance runner, or enjoy inspirational stories with a dose of humor, I recommend that you check out this book.

Will you be in Atlanta this weekend (October 17)? If so, make plans to see Tom Foreman at 10:30 am at the Tech Square Barnes & Noble store for a discussion of his book + book signing! Event details here.

Note: Penguin Random House provided me with a review copy of this book. I did not receive any additional compensation for this review. All opinions about this book are my own.

RnR Savannah / St. Jude Half Marathon Training: Weeks 8-10

Week 10 is done. Thus we mark the halfway point from the beginning of training to the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, and six weeks until Savannah.

This training cycle has sucked. It’s not that I don’t love running or training, it’s that I’m struggling to get out of my body and mind what I feel like it should be able to give me. I’ve never had so many miserable long runs. I haven’t managed to pull off a proper tempo run since Week 5. I’ve half-assed at least one hard running workout that I can think of, and I’ve missed other runs entirely.

I’ve also eaten like shit, drank more than I should, traveled more than I cared to (none of it for pleasure), and slept too little. I don’t respond well when I beat myself up for these behaviors, so I’ll just think of prospective lifestyle changes as “room for improvement.”

Adding strength training has altered my training/recovery dynamic, and learning this new balance has derailed my training more than once. I’m proud that I’ve stuck with it, continued to experiment, and learned a lot about listening to my body and knowing when I can push harder and when I need to back off. That lesson alone is so much more important than the outcome of one training cycle.

The same goes for injuries. I’ve had a few warning signs of potential looming injuries, and I somehow figured out what I think was the root cause, aggressively addressed it, and backed off of training enough to keep the issue from becoming a full-blown injury. The SI joint pain made me skip a couple of runs, but it also may have made me a stronger runner. When I was running through it, it forced me to keep my pelvis neutral which helps so much with getting my glutes to fire.

The reality is that I haven’t gotten in all the miles that I hoped to in preparation for these half marathons, so I’m still unsure about any race goals. My guess is that I’ll make St. Jude my goal race – I think I have enough time left to get in some good training and set up a possible PR.

Anyway, here’s the three weeks of recap, in a condensed format.

Week 8: 27 miles

  • Monday, 9/7: Rest
  • Tuesday, 9/8: 4 miles
  • Wednesday, 9/9: 7 miles (plan 3-6 @ tempo); mobility class
    • I was too aggressive at the beginning of this tempo run – the first two tempo miles were 8:36 & 8:34. I hit an uphill stretch in the third mile, and got really frustrated and took a jogging recovery after a little over half a mile uphill (at an 8:56/mile pace). After recovering for a third of a mile, I ran another mile in 8:49. Overall average pace for the tempo portion was 8:52/mile.
  • Thursday, 9/10: 6 easy miles; strides; strength training
  • Friday, 9/11: Rest
  • Saturday, 9/12: Rest
  • Sunday, 9/13: 11 miles @ 10:40/mile

Week 9: 20 miles

  • Monday, 9/14: Rest
  • Tuesday, 9/15: 8 miles (plan: 3-7 tempo); strength training; tabata core workout
    • I didn’t do myself any favors by trying this run on an even hillier route and in the lunchtime heat. I ran the first two tempo miles in the 8:40s before I just quit. I was way too concerned with hitting the number on my watch to acknowledge that I was working too hard in the first two miles. I ran a moderate-to-comfortably-hard effort for the remaining 3 faster miles without looking at my watch, those miles were all around the 9:10-9:30 range. I wonder how I would have done with a consistent effort for all 5 miles. Lesson learned. (Or was it, when the same damn thing happened last week?)
  • Wednesday, 9/16: 3 recovery miles; Power yoga+pilates; mobility class
    • This was too hard for a recovery day; I shouldn’t have gone to the power yoga+pilates class. I wish I enjoyed pilates. [le sigh]

      There’s a historic cemetery not far from my apartment, and I love the calm of it for recovery runs.

  • Thursday, 9/17: 6 miles; strides; strength training
    • Squat day! I loved the strength workout, which in addition to 5×5 sets of squats, also included pull-ups, split squats with kettlebells, side lunges with a kettlebell, some core work (really tough after yesterday’s yoga/pilates), and so many one-arm kettlebell swings I lost count. I really felt the fatigue from the rest of the week’s workouts.
  • Friday, 9/18: REST SWEET REST; restorative yoga
    • I was really sore, unsurprisingly. We walked to Turner Field for the Braves game (about a mile from my apartment), which I hoped would be some good “active recovery.” But that and restorative yoga were all about all I had to give physically. OMGEXHAUSTED.
  • Saturday, 9/19: 3 mile recovery run
    • I was even more sore than Friday, and my muscles were so stiff – I woke up and couldn’t really walk without altering my gait. Not a good situation for a long run. I spent some time foam rolling and trying to show some love to my sore muscles, and finally felt up to a 3 mile recovery run.
  • Sunday, 9/20: Rest
    • I could have done the long run, but I was about to leave town for the week, and I decided that spending a little time with Jeff was more important. He’s a full-time grad student, a teaching assistant, and a full-time architect, so time together is more valuable than ever! I didn’t mind putting off my run was so happy to put off my run, lest my training continue to disappoint.

Week 10: 39 miles

This looks like a huge jump in mileage based on measuring the week from Monday-Sunday, but a Tuesday-Monday week would have resulted in 32 miles for week 9 and 27 miles for week 10.

  • Monday, 9/21: 12 miles @ 9:47/mile
    • FINALLY! A long run that felt good. I benefited some from cooler temperatures and a flatter route along the Charles River in Boston, but it was still good! I celebrated with a lobster roll, fries, and a Milly’s Oatmeal Stout.

      Sunset overlooking Cambridge on the Charles River

  • Tuesday, 9/22: Rest
  • Wednesday, 9/23: 4 miles
  • Thursday, 9/24: 6.5 miles; strides; Red Sox game

    First visit to Fenway!

  • Friday, 9/25: Rest and the best damn lobster roll (I’ve talked about this place before, but it never disappoints)
  • Saturday, 9/26: 12.5 miles @11:03/mile
    • I ran with my friend Amy, who was running 16 miles with some marathon pace miles thrown in. Even though it was raining, we had a really nice time and a good run.
  • Sunday, 9/27: 4 mile recovery run

After several poor attempts at tempo runs, I just skipped my planned tempo this week. For several weeks, I’d felt a sense of dread of the tempo. The dread grew stronger each week, and I finally decided I’d had enough. I put it behind me and I actually feel better about my training without my weekly dose of dread and disappointment.

This post is feeling a bit negative, so here’s a photo of my cat for grins.

I’m not going to belabor all the things I’ve done wrong or failed to do over the past few weeks – I know I need to do core and hip work more consistently, get some time in lifting heavy things while on the road, and eat better while I’m traveling.

Have you ever had a really crappy training cycle? Any advice you have for pulling out of this rut would be greatly appreciated!

Race Recap: Sweetwater 420 Fest 5k

In case it wasn’t obvious from the title of the blog post, my knee is on the mend and I’m even running races here and there.

The Sweetwater 5k was about two months ago (belated recap, yes), and I had been back to running for a few weeks at the time of the race. My goal was to see how fit I was and NOT to race the 5k.

What a cute sentiment.

The race, in numbers:

  • Friends running race with me: 6
  • Photographs taken: 0
  • First mile: 7:45
  • Second mile: 8:13
  • Third mile: 8:45
  • Pace of last 0.1 miles: 9:31/mile
  • Garmin: 3.17 miles in 26:20
  • Official: 26:30

The race, in words:

  • I am not racing.
  • WEEEEEEEEEE look how fast I can run!!!
  • Should probably slow down.
  • All aboard the suffer bus!
  • Just make it stop.
  • #positivesplitsgalore

The course is relatively flat for the first mile or so as it runs up Marietta Street from Centennial Olympic Park. The hills get really nasty in the third mile, as the course winds in and out of (super hilly) side streets off of Luckie Street, before returning to the park at a more modest incline. The race had a standard cotton t-shirt, and (OF COURSE) your choice of post-race Sweetwater beer. 


While the outcome of my race wasn’t super-satisfying, and I didn’t even meet my supposedly achievable goal of not racing (for a mile at least), I was still happy to be able to run a race!

Questions for you:

Have you ever gone out way too fast in a race?

If you’ve had a running injury, how was your first race back?

MLKDay 5K Race Recap

An unexpected irony of the marathon was that it made me want to run #ALLTHERACES pretty soon after the soreness went away, but after a few recovery weeks and a few back-to-training weeks, I didn’t feel ready to race. Especially a 5k, which is simultaneously too long and too short, I’m beginning to believe.

Then I reminded myself that this wasn’t a goal race, just an opportunity to get a feel for the distance and for my fitness level. Relax, perpetually high-strung runner lady.

The MLKDay 5K had some important advantages: walking distance from my house, late January timing, and drummers along the course. I recruited Jeff and my friend Sarah to join in on the fun.

Jeff and I made a little wager on the 5k. We set the spread at Jeff – 2:00, with the loser against the spread getting to pick up the tab for post-race treats.



We picked up our bibs at Park Tavern around 8:20 for an 8:45 start. Pick-up was really easy, well-organized, and WARM! Around 8:30, Sarah and I began warming up with some light jogging, dynamic stretches, and strides. Fun music was playing, and a lot of the race participants were dancing at the start area and having a great time.

8:45 came and went without any sign of the race starting. I’m all for people having a good time and celebrating a meaningful holiday for our nation and ESPECIALLY our city, but it’s hard to be patient when it’s 30something degrees outside.

Sarah and I were starting to get cold, so we tried to stay warm by jogging, stretching, and doing more strides. Because the race could line up at any minute, I didn’t feel like the warming up that we did was all that effective.

Eventually, we got the go-ahead to line up. I didn’t see a timing mat at the start, so I assumed that the finish times would be on gun time. My competitive side kicked in, and I moved to the front somewhat aggressively. I’ll be honest, I had some pent-up aggression from being annoyed at the late start.

The race started before I could get my Garmin to link up, so I was running blind. I don’t have any pace info, but I know I ran out of the start hard. TOO HARD.

The course is entirely within Piedmont Park, and it begins on a lawn with a short uphill at the end. The uphill was like a slap in the face to my overly fast early pacing ambitions. It was also covered in wet leaves, so it was a bit slippery.

MLKDay 5k

After basically sprinting off the starting line and being humbled by this hill, I was ready to quit the race. I felt horrible! Jeff passed me shortly after the hill. Knowing that I couldn’t let him beat me by more than 2 minutes was my only motivation.

The course winds through the park, so there were no surprises because I run in the park regularly. I saw all the hills coming, knew when they would end, and was able to pace myself reasonably well as a result. After backing off the unsustainable pace I started with, I regained some strength. But I had no idea how far or fast I was running.

A cool feature of this race was the drumline on the race course. Drummers were situated at intervals along the course, so you were always running toward or away from a chorus of drums.

The end of the course is almost all flat or downhill, including one short, steep downhill on the grass back toward the start line.


Approaching the finish

I read the clock as I was crossing the finish, and I’m 99.9% sure I saw 25:21. Good enough for a PR given that I’ve only run one other 5k that I can remember.

I caught up with Jeff after the race and he said his Garmin time was 24:01. Of course, I was happy to unofficially cover the 2-minute spread.

post-race treats

Later, after enjoying that absurdly large delicious Bloody Mary, we saw that the official times were different from what we expected. My official time came in at 24:52, and Jeff’s at 23:32. Maybe it’s a coincidence that our expected times were both exactly 29 seconds different from the official time, but I’m reluctant to fully trust the official 24:52, especially given the disorganization at the start and the fact that there wasn’t a starting timing mat.

At the time, I thought I’d be running more 5ks soon enough, so I’d probably get an idea of which time was correct based on later races. Unfortunately, I tweaked my left knee during the race and haven’t been able to run consistently over the past few weeks. I’m not sure yet when I’ll race another 5k.

MLKDay 5k T-Shirt

MLKDay 5k 2015 T-Shirt

Bottom Line: The drums give this race a fun vibe, and of course I love running in Piedmont Park. The race t-shirt is a nice color and really soft, so it gets two thumbs up. The organization of the race was actually quite good other than the late start, which was almost unforgivable given the cold conditions. The race offered free photos – always a nice feature. The race course spans a variety of surfaces – grass, gravel, pavement, and boardwalk. I think it’s a matter of individual preference whether you prefer a race with consistent surfaces. I wouldn’t call it a particularly fast 5k course. If you’re looking for a goal race or a PR, this probably isn’t the race for you. But if you’re looking to get outside in January in Atlanta and run a fun race, this race is worth considering.

First Miles of the New Year

I decided to begin 5k specific training 4 weeks post-marathon without considering that week 4 was a holiday week. Oops. It’s tricky to start structured training during an unstructured holiday week! I did most of the training as prescribed, but I also had fun and adjusted the plan when I felt like it.

I’m probably overstating the “structure” involved in the 5k training. As much as I’m motivated to keep running more and faster, I’m backing off of what I think I’m capable of doing training-wise this winter and spring. One of my goals this year is balance – both for an overall happy life and to avoid burnout with running.

Monday: 4 miles @ 9:44/mile; strides

My training plan suggested running weekday easy/distance runs at a pace between 9:15 and 10:15/mile. I thought this was nuts when I saw it; during marathon training these runs were typically 10:45/mile or higher (I was running purely by feel and trying to take it very “easy”). It makes sense to me, however, that having improved my PRs over the past year and decreasing my weekly mileage, I can/should be running a bit faster. This run felt harder than a regular weekday distance run, but not uncomfortably so.

Tuesday: 6 mile fartlek // 8 x 1 min @ 7:50-8:00, 2 min recovery

I thought this would be totally easy. Throw a post-recovery marathoner a 6 mile fartlek workout with 5k pace repeats and they might get arrogant.

A couple of repeats in:

And at the end of the workout:

Once I checked with Sir Garmin, I realized I ran the 5k pace repeats too fast, so there’s that. (The repeats were at per-mile paces of  8:20, 7:16, 7:49, 7:42, 7:42, 7:49, 7:42, 7:49. Barf-worthy pacing at the beginning.) Give an actual sort-of speedy workout to someone who hasn’t run faster than 10k pace in months…it burns.

Wednesday: New Year’s Eve! Rest day.

I took the rest day super seriously. We stayed in and Jeff made many delicious foods. I photographed none of them, so just take my word for it.

Thursday: New Year’s Day! Rest day.

I felt like sleeping in, eating a hearty breakfast, and drinking beer/watching football, so I took an extra rest day.

New year's morn

So that’s just what I did.

We went over to our friends’ house and watched football, including Baylor’s Cotton Bowl collapse loss. I’m sad about the outcome, of course, but I do appreciate the tragic coincidence that we got beaten the same way we beat TCU. It’s uncanny, really.

Friday: 4 miles @ 9:51/mile; kickboxing

I think North Avenue might be the best street in Atlanta for a hill workout if you can time the stoplights – it is constantly going up or down. I wasn’t technically supposed to do any sort of workout, just a regular distance run, but I had a lot of pent up energy from not running two days in a row.


I still felt energetic after my run, so I decided to go to my first kickboxing class since marathon training began. Maybe that was a bad choice. Parts of my body hurt for days afterward, but it was so nice to get back to hitting the crap out of the bag. Kicks are a little rusty at this point.

boxing gloves

May we never be parted again.

Saturday: Sorely needed rest day. 

Watched the UFC fights with some friends, which weren’t all that exciting. Drank more beer than was necessary.

Sunday: 9 miles @ 10:44/mile

I meant to run 10 miles around town to reacquaint myself with parts of the Publix half marathon course. I didn’t feel great to begin with, then I had a near brush with death. Here’s what happened.

I was running along the sidewalk by a busy shopping/dining area (by the Vortex on Moreland), and there was a car waiting to turn onto the street. I made eye contact with the driver and didn’t start to cross the driveway until she acknowledged me. As I was crossing, I heard a honk. The lady who had just acknowledged me hit the gas and nearly flattened me. Rage ensued.

In what felt like an out-of-body experience, I did my best Slim Shady impression (put one finger on each hand up) and let loose a string of four-letter words that was passionate if not all that impressive. I’m not creative with profanity.

Later, I realized anyone in the parking lot had plenty of time to photograph me as Sweaty-Slim-Shady and make me an internet meme. I’ve been monitoring Reddit for days. Please notify me if you see me meme’d. (Tag #sweatyslimshady would be appropriate.)

What made me so mad wasn’t just narrowly escaping death-by-car. I don’t normally explode with rage when a car almost hits me; sadly, I’m kind of used to it. I’ve come to expect every car to hit me unless I know they’ve seen me. In this situation, I was (still am) angry because that jerk made eye contact with me. She knew I was there and hit the gas anyway. It’s sickening.

Lessons, in no particular order:

  1. Do not run on Moreland.
  2. Motorists should not be trusted.
  3. Don’t be a shitty driver. Be considerate of pedestrians and cyclists. Saving 15 seconds isn’t worth hitting a defenseless person with your car.

After all that, the rest of the run wasn’t great, and I cut it short to 9 miles.

Total Miles for the Week: 23

I felt like I barely ran at all this week. I plan to do some more cross-training in the weeks to come.

What is your worst experience with a motorist? If you were appointed dictator of the rules of the road, what would you change?