I'm pretty behind right now, I guess that's how it goes in the summer. One minute you're not doing anything, the next, you've raced three times in one week!
I ended June on a pretty positive upswing. In years past, I've done very little in the weeks following Eagleman. Often, I would stay out of the pool and stay off the bike for the better part of two weeks, although for whatever reason my run mileage would be pretty high. This time last year, of course, I was just beginning to contemplate starting to run and ride again after a few months off.
Swimming - A. I finally feel good about the work I've done in the pool. Following Eagleman I decided to return to the style of swimming that brought me (moderate and relative) success last year, which is, to say, more volume. I had a few good workouts, and a couple really great ones. I still struggled a bit with consistency, for instance, when I go away for the weekend I will typically be out of the pool Saturday/Sunday, which is normal, but when I come back I'm often too tired to get in on Monday, and then 3 or 4 days has gone by out of the pool. However, for the month I got in 58000m, which is 19k more than I've done any other month of this calendar year.
Cycling - B+. I rode more than I typically have in June, at 543 miles, but it was 75 miles fewer than I rode in May. I was pleased with my split at Eagleman (2:16:44 - 32nd best of the day) but I wasn't that pleased. I did get in one longer ride of about 4.5 hours, and made it to Weds Night Ride once after Eagleman and twice I made it to Thurs Night Ride. Those were good efforts.
Running - B+. My foot is still giving me trouble, but I'm able to run. I don't think I did a single track workout this month, although I do remember doing a little something the week of Eagleman. I haven't done many harder runs, but I did re-introduce longer runs. It's tough to do the long run on a Monday night, especially after what can be longer weekends, but bodies don't care what day of the week it is. Mostly it's out of laziness, because I don't want to drive 3 and change miles to Fed Hill to run 7 miles. So for the last couple of weeks, the Snake Hill Gang has run down and back to FHR (in the realm of 14 miles). While not a true long run, it's long enough for now, and it's been quite hot in that part of the day. 145 miles for the month of June, more than May, less than most other months.
It was in June that I also took my first day off in 143 days. Weds, June 29, my body finally gave up. I put in a good effort on the 30th, and then on Friday, July 1, a group of 6 of us departed Baltimore, destination: Atlanta. The Peachtree 10k is the largest 10k in the US, at 60,000 entrants, and one of (if not) the largest road races in the world. It's been on my mind for years to do this race, and this year, a perfect storm of awesomeness illuminated itself. The Baltimore Orioles would be playing the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field the first weekend of July, and the race, always held on the 4th, was on Monday. It was ideal. Friends + road trip + Independence + running = classic weekend.
After picking up the Smurf Mobile (actually it was a much darker blue) - a Dodge Minivan - we packed it up and rolled out. Friday. Of July 4th weekend. At 3:45pm. It was doomed from the start, but after a slow first few hours we were able to move a little better. Unfortunately, we only made it to Blacksburg VA, home of Virginia Tech, by about 11:30. We got a hotel and crashed, with 5 of us waking up for a 7am run the next morning. We explored the campus, which was quiet and scenic, and very undulating. We got back and hit the road, stopping at Panera for breakfast and meeting an Orioles fan originally from Baltimore. This helped both Arjun and myself in our game of Road Trip Bingo, which was cleverly crafted by Alyssa and Brennan, and kept us more than entertained the entire weekend.
Stopped in NC for a great bbq lunch, and rolled into a very hot Atlanta around 4:30pm. We took the MARTA to the Braves stadium, where Brennan had gotten us hooked up with great seats, and watched as our Orioles lost another game. But, we did get to see some Home Runs, a grand slam (albeit by a Brave) and eat some good stadium food. Following the game we made our way out in Buckhead (where we were also staying). A lot of dive-ish bars. I was confused, because all I wanted to do was what Luda and JD would have done, which would have been "Saturday, it's off the heezy fo sheezy, you can find me up in one-tweezy". Of course, the club to which they're referring is Club 112. I thought it was in Buckhead. We just...couldn't...find it.
I was pretty tired from the long two days of driving and the heat, so I had no shot of making it out very late. Plus, Alyssa needed to swim on Sunday and I said I would join. So Sunday morning we get up and make our way into the presumably 20yd pool. Pretty short, but nothing like what my friend Chicken Tender had to put up with in Prague. The pool was hot, but the inside air was hotter. They had two lane lines, indicating that this was in fact a pool to "swim" in, so we hopped in and got going. I was gassed after 4 minutes. It was so uncomfortable, I thought I was going to die. The few people in the pool had to endure tsunami-like conditions as we swam and flipped every couple of strokes. Alyssa's workout was 3x1000, so I guessed it was probably about 30 laps. I lost count on the first one and just swam for time. I was becoming more and more lightheaded, so much that by the end I thought I was going to pass out. No cooldown for me. Just sat there in the hot water.
By now it was 10:45, the workout taking a little longer than anticipated, so I had to run by myself. I went down and back on Peachtree Rd, following the course. It was already really hot. Then it was time for breakfast/lunch, and Brennan/Ed/Alyssa/myself found this place that was definitely not ready for us. I haven't uploaded my pictures yet so I'll do that soon and show the picture of the french toast we ate. The waitress could not believe we were able to finish the food, so we had to inform her who we were. From there we headed to the expo, picked up our stuff, and then made it to the weekend's main attraction: the Coca-Cola Museum! I'd been looking forward to this for months. By the time we left there it was time to get back, eat dinner and head to bed.
Monday morning we awoke to what seemed like reasonably cool temps, but the humidity was through the roof. We did a little group warmup down Peachtree, before we go stuck on the wrong side of the road. We had to sweet talk our way back to the hotel (I think they thought we were elites) and we got to the start line with some time to spare. One of our Road Trip Bingo boxes was "talk to Ryan Hall about God or the Bible" so we all looked at each other when Hall went by us doing a stride, but we opted to let him do his thing.
55,090 lined up and following the National Anthem and a FLYOVER, the race started. I've never been in a race that had a flyover and it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. I don't know what it is about really loud jets flying over that is so much cooler than seeing commercial airliners, but it is awesome. The top three corrals (top seed, sub seed, A) all started at 7:30am, with the other corrals starting at a few minute increments all the way back to 9am. I don't know how those people did it, starting at 9am to run 2 hours for 10k. There was no gun, just a dude telling us to go, and away we went. It took just 7 seconds to cross the start line, and my plan was to go out relaxed. I was apparently so relaxed, and time went by so quickly, that I missed the 1 mile mark. I was expecting a big sign and a clock, but when we got to 2, it was pretty small signs on the side of the road, no clocks. I think I came through in 5:50-5:45 though, as I could see Brennan ahead and Jeff Rumbaugh was in between us. It was just before mile 2 that Arjun came zooming by, he had gone out in 6:10! I clicked 2 at 11:32.
Unfortunately I already realized that this was not going to be my day. This was the easy part of the course, and thanks to some heads up from my Atlantan/Terp friend, Patrick Reaves, I knew not to go out too hard. But hard would have been more like 5:20, not 5:45 pace through 2. There was a sharper downhill just before 3, and then the road tilted up - for basically the next mile. I hit 3 in 5:55 and then 4 in 6:15. I was actually surprised 4 wasn't slower. I seriously have never seen as cruel of a mile thrown into the middle of a race. I almost bridged back up to Arjun by the top of the climb, but as soon as it leveled out, he was gone again. And apparently so was I, except off the back, as I hit mile 5 in 6:29. Oooof. I clipped 5 miles in 30:11, a scant 7 seconds faster than I ran the Sheehan 5 miler just a few weeks ago. Well over a minute slower than where I thought I would be.
The humidity was brutalizing. My singlet was sticking to my chest and breathing was tough. The water stops were really just tables of water with nobody handing them out, we reckoned that they figure rather not put any additional people on road. Peachtree is a wide, wide road, but 55,000 people spread across just 6 point-to-point miles takes up most of that. One thing we found interesting was the lack of smart running by just about everyone. If you've ever watched Brennan and Arjun run, they are ALWAYS looking for the shortest line. Here is a nickel's worth of free advice: you are running longer than the race distance if you are not running the tangents. That's how the course is measured, and that's how you should be running it. The three of us took very good lines (since I could see them for at least a little while) and saved ourselves a little bit of extra energy.
I was taking water but mostly throwing it on my head and drinking the remnants, which were mixed with salty sweat. The water was never refreshing. At mile 5, I found some legs again. And by that, I mean I was able to pick it back up to the pace I was running towards the beginning - 5:56 for the last mile. I was pleased with that, but also realized I was not going to be under 37, so I did not have the impetus to run faster than that pace for the last 2/10th of a mile. I finished up at 37:27 (6:03/mi, same pace as at Sheehan). Not my fastest 10k, by far, but also not my slowest. Amazingly, despite there being 55,000 people, this was good enough for 235th place overall.
Following the race, I needed sustenance fast. You finish in Piedmont Park, which is enormous, and everything was really spread out. I picked up a peach. Then a popsicle. Then I found the motherload - ice cold Coke and some Powerade. Walked back to meet everyone, and Brennan and I took the opportunity to pose for some amazing photos (to come). You see, for most, their day was done. They would hop on the MARTA and go home. For us, our day was really just starting. We had to make the long trek back to the hotel, which, of course, was right at the start line. Not knowing the area, other than the road we had just run down, we asked what route we should take. Piedmont Avenue was the resounding answer, and we made our way up the rolling hills of this road, that looked for a while like it was taking us the wrong way.
The 6 of us obviously all run different paces, so it was tough keeping the group together, but we did a solid job. After a few miles we saw Paces Ferry Rd. From my smarts, I remembered this road should allegedly bring us to the Lenox Mall (where our hotel was). We turned down it and boom - there we were. The way home was definitely less than 5 miles, so cut off a little bit. It was still a tough run. Very hot, very exposed. We got back, cleaned up and made our way to THE Atlanta insitution - The Varsity. I think we can all agree this food was pretty gross, and not really worth ever going back. But we did it. And at noon thirty, we got on the road north, destination now unknown.
Since we had stopped at VTech, and seen Georgia Tech, when we got to South Carolina I really wanted to check out Clemson. I had never been there, and despite it being a little out of the way I made them all do it, and we stopped at their beautiful track to run a lap. It was...the hottest track I've ever been on. The heat emanating off of this thing had to have been close to that of the sun. We got back into the car, sweating, and hit up Chick Fil A before making our way back to the highway. Later in the day we drove through some really bad storms, and as it was nearing 7pm, we decided somewhere in the Triangle would be our stop for the night. Raleigh seemed like the best choice, as we figured, being a capital city, would have something going on. We could not have been more wrong.
Our trip had been highlighted by some really funny things, but one of the funniest happened at dinner at The Big Easy, in Raleigh, a cajun-themed bar/restaurant downtown. The place was empty, as was the entire city (seriously, it was a ghost town, like when it would get dark in Castlevania: Simon's Quest), and our waitress was a low talker. Without breaking stride, Ed orders his food and then goes "also, I don't know if you heard, but we got 'em." This has been a source of humor since May 1st, as we like to remind ourselves and others that we got OBL. The waitress was more than puzzled. "Excuse me, I'm sorry - what?" Ed then goes: "we...got...him." I was dying. And we don't know if they even happened because of the weather, but we missed the fireworks. I've never seen a place more dead, except in zombie movies or tv shows.
After a night's rest, we made our way north for our final leg of the trip. In order to save the best for last, we went to the Waffle House for breakfast. We consumed quite a lot and the bill was...$34. For all 6 of us. Gotta love it. With about 5.5 hours of driving, it was a pretty mundane day, and I didn't get tired until Richmond. From Richmond home it was a lot tougher. We got back around 2, and I dropped off the minivan. We had told them we weren't driving out of state, thank goodness they didn't question why there were 1500 new miles on this whip! Being now seriously tired, and because my knee could barely move after the long days of driving, I took Tuesday off. I felt bad for a second, but then stopped feeling bad.
It was a really cool experience, but not one that I necessarily feel I need to do again soon. The race is a big deal for Atlantans/Georgians, but other than being a big race, doesn't hold much significance to us. People couldn't believe we came all the way down for it, nor could they believe we drove. The first question you're asked is "what number Peachtree is this for you?" to which we all responded "our first." Most people were telling us it was their 14th, 24th, whatever. It's similar to the Broad Street 10 Miler in Philly - big deal for Philadelphians to come out and DO the race (to the tune of 30,000 people now on a point-to-point 10 miler). The other weird thing was people were congratulating us on our finish, like it was some real achievement. We accepted their congratulations graciously, but it was still odd to us.
There are a few other big races I'd like to do, and maybe each summer I will make that my goal. Some include the Utica Boilermaker 15k (this past weekend in NY), Falmouth (August, MA), Bolder Boulder 10k, Carlsbad 5000m (Cali, April though and a really short race), Bay to Breakers, Bix 7 (Iowa) - so I need to start making some plans. Hopefully the Orioles can find games in those places on those dates to make more of a reason to go!
Next post up will come pretty quick as I need to recap this past weekend before I forget!