Goal C: To test a run-walk strategy in a 5-mile race
Goal B: To better my time from 2015, 43:27
Goal A: To finish ahead of Curtis Walker!
The Livvy's Love Foundation was founded by a local family to honor the memory of their daughter, Olivia Hayes, who died tragically in a school bus accident several years ago. For five years in a row, the foundation has organized an 8K race around the base of Stone Mountain, as well as a 5K option. The race is held on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Day.
|The main reason for today's run/walk|
The race is a fundraiser with many connections to Tucker High School, including sponsoring college scholarships for deserving seniors from Tucker High School. I'm proud to see Emory University represented among the colleges and universities that have admitted Olivia Hayes Memorial Scholars. At this morning's event, one of the first graduates of the scholarship program was introduced and honored.
|To date, Olivia Hayes Memorial Scholarships have supported students at 15 colleges and universities.|
In the past year, Curtis and Kathie Walker, my coaches from the 2014 Peachtree-In-Training course, have led the formation of the Tucker Running Club, a casual Facebook-centered group "For those who run/walk in, around or through Tucker and wish to socialize with others who do the same." At age 69, Curt's an experienced runner, and I think that the only Tucker Running Club regulars that are faster than him are no more than half his age. Kathie, a few years younger, is also a strong runner, and was consistently faster than me until an Achilles tendon injury about a year ago. After a long recovery period lasting several months, she is back to running regularly (and hopefully pain-free), and I'm trying to stay ahead of her current pace as she continues to rebuild her strength and speed. I've been running most Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, with groups varying from a few to as many as 20 on a few occasions. I thought that it would be great to run this race with our Tucker Running Club shirts - now into a second edition!
|Curt Walker, Kathie Walker, Judy Tennell with P.J., me, and Bonnie Youn|
Between recent cold weather, few daylight hours, and a grant proposal deadline last Wednesday, I haven't run much in 2016. Notwithstanding the work/life balance, I've wondered what is the right run/rest balance, maintaining conditioning while allowing minor pains to heal. I ran for the first time in about 10 days on Wednesday evening before the race, which felt good, then took it easy on Thursday and Friday. Curt Walker was teasing me on Wednesday asking me to pace him. I don't think that he could be serious, but then in the Resolution Run (4-miler) on New Year's Day, my time was only 4 seconds slower than Curt's. I still think that he can outrun me in any head-to-head competition, but I was happy to start with him and see how things went today.
Norman Hayes started off the 8K runners first, with the 5K runners behind us. Curt was standing a step or two in front and to the left of me, but with the signal to start, Curt jumped out 10 steps ahead of me in the first few seconds! I got off to a relatively quick start, but was behind two friends who were running around an 8:30 pace, which was about what I had planned for the first mile, to avoid starting too fast. I had set my Garmin on a 4:00 min run / 0:30 min walk cycle, and for once elected to take the first walk break even though I didn't really need it. I walked for about 15 seconds and then got back up to speed as I heard other runners coming up behind me. The first mile was uphill (36 ft net elevation gain) but I finished it in 8:20, with Curt about 10 seconds ahead of me. In the second mile, there was a wonderful and long downhill section. I really sped up in this section, flying past a couple of other runners, but Curt was running smoothly and stayed safely in front of me. I finished the second mile in 7:50 (94 ft net elevation loss) and was just hoping that I hadn't run too fast in the beginning.
Priscilla, another member of the Tucker Running Club, was volunteering and cheering at the Mile 2 water stop. I timed the walk break to take a cup of water and drink it down, then got back up to speed. Curt was running a steady pace throughout, but it didn't seem that I lost too much ground on him with 30 second walk breaks. I would adjust the timing of the walk breaks a bit so that I was always running on every downhill section and taking the walk break going uphill, and the rolling hills allowed that strategy without too much deviation from the "schedule". Unfortunately I was beginning to labor, breathing fairly loudly, but felt that I was still moving quickly in a few of the low downhill sections, keeping me at 8:39 pace for mile 3 (18 ft net elevation gain).
The fourth mile was pretty tough for me, even though I discovered afterwards that it was 7 ft net elevation loss! I started to estimate how far I was behind Curt Walker by counting as he passed a landmark ahead. At three steps per second, I was about 20 seconds behind. That really wasn't too bad, but it wasn't going to be easy to catch him either as long as he could maintain the pace. I finished the fourth mile in 8:53, but this was before the big hill at the Stone Mountain Inn that is "the big one" that everyone talks about on the Stone Mountain running loop. "The big one" started shortly after the four-mile sign. I was grateful to hear the alert for a walk break about 2/3 of the way up, and the run alert sounded just as I was nearing the top. But there was one more hill to go in that section, and I had to take another 30 second walk break to keep my heart rate at a safe level. There I quickly glanced behind me for the first and only time, and didn't see anyone close behind me, so for the rest of the way it would likely just be Curt and me, dueling to the finish. I assumed that Curt knew that I wasn't too far behind him from the loud volume of my breathing, although he said afterwards that he didn't hear me - so I guess I wasn't that close after all! Anyway it was a beautiful feeling to reach the top of the last hill, and I had enough energy to run fast on a long downhill past a major intersection from the east entrance reaching the loop.
|"Got hills?" (from Phidippides training group notice on Facebook)|
As I made the sharp left turn onto Hugh Howell Road heading to the finish, I took a quick look at my watch and saw 39:30 as the elapsed time. That was great, as I recalled being beyond 40 minutes at that stage last year. So whether or not I caught Curt, I knew that I was likely to improve on last year's time! I wasn't taking any more walk breaks at this stage, trying to find additional motivation and energy to run faster. For the rest of the race route, the road was gently uphill (actually not so gentle when I looked back downhill after the race). When I could see the finish line far ahead, I started speeding up just a bit, then a bit more. I felt like I was beginning to gain a bit on Curt, as I could hear the crowd cheering - cheering for the two old guys in the Tucker Running Club shirts who were obviously racing each other - and then I could read 41:40 on the clock. I was thinking of last year's Peachtree Road Race when the eventual winner sped up to catch up with the leader in the last few hundred feet, and for a moment I thought that I might manage the same! Then, I realized that Curt was also running faster, and then that I wasn't going to catch him. He crossed the finish line shortly before 42 minutes, and with my heart screaming at me to slow down, I let off the gas just a bit before I crossed the line myself, at around 42:04 (8:22 for the last 0.97 miles).
Overall I covered 4.97 miles (8.00 km exactly) in 42:04, which beat last year's mark by 1:23, so I was thrilled with that result. I congratulated Curt and thanked him for being a great "rabbit", and I'm certain that chasing him shaved at least a minute off of my time, probably more. I had managed to keep him in sight and not that far out in front for the entire race, yet remarkably I never caught up to him. I started to put my hands on my knees to stop and catch my breath, but then Curt reminded me that it was important to keep walking and so we walked a couple of blocks together until I had caught my breath, and saw Kathie had crossed the line about one minute after we did.
|Katie Walker, first place 60 - 69 age group women|
(with Nikki Hayes, left, and Norman Hayes Jr., right)
|Curt Walker, second place 60 - 69 age group men|
|Judy and P. J. finishing the 8K|
|Bonnie inadvertently finishing 5 miles, but finishing STRONG!|
The only hiccup with today's event was that the turnaround point for the 5 km out-and-back wasn't marked. I remember looking for it in the second mile and didn't see it. When we finished the 8K, I started looking for Bonnie's phone with "Find my phone" and saw that she was about 2 miles away from the start. I was relieved to see her signal coming back around toward the start, and walked out to meet her. At that point she had covered 4 miles (!) and I told her that the race organizers were asking 8K runners if any of us had seen the turnaround (no one did) so the 5K race was basically a bust, in terms of timing the distance covered. Bonnie didn't turn around until she had reached the water station at the mile 2 marker - because if she had turned around earlier, she would have thought she was cheating! Moreover, the 5K route had a long loop so that all racers, both 5K and 8K, reached the finish line from the same direction. When we checked Bonnie's "Map My Run" afterwards, she had actually covered 5.00 miles, a tad more than the 8K race around the mountain! Judy said that a runner asked her at the 3-mile mark about the turnaround point for the 5K, and Judy advised her (correctly) to just keep running around the mountain, because it would be shorter than turning around!
Goal C: To test a run-walk strategy in a 5-mile race; that was very successful for me. My Garmin showed that I covered most of the run segments at speeds between 7 - 8 mph, hitting 9.0 mph on a couple of downhills, including the last one about 1/2 mile from the finish. There's no way that I could have managed that later in the race if I had not taken walk breaks.
Goal B: To better my time from 2015, 43:27; Achieved! I will update with official results if/when posted, but I think that the result will come between 42:00 - 42:05 (Jan 21 update: 42:03.8, 8:28 min/mi pace).
Goal A: To finish ahead of Curtis Walker! Not quite, but stayed close for every step of the race! I'm very eager to see the official results, to see if I finished in the top 10 (Jan 21 update: 9th place!). I didn't win an award this year, as there were two faster men in the 50 - 59 age group, but I was thrilled with my time! This will be a difficult mark to improve on, but I hope that I can continue to make progress this year.
P.S. I was interviewed after finishing by the local CBS television affiliate. I'm not sure that I was terribly articulate - my brain doesn't work that well after extreme exertion, but I might make a brief appearance on the 6 pm news broadcast this evening!
P.P.S. A video posted by Livvy's Love begins with five Tucker Running Club members posing for a photo!