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I’d say I called an official end to marathon recovery Saturday. Something got in me last week and I was itching to see if all my winter training/speedwork/runstreak-keeping could get me up a corral in the Peachtree Road Race. Seeding is important for the Peachtree for many people because of the prestige of the corrals–No letter before your number means you are sub-seeded-WOW. From there, you can tell how fast people are based on the letters, A-Z. But for me, seeding is important because the faster you are, the sooner you can start the race. And in July in Atlanta, every bit earlier you can start means that much less you will feel like death as the temperature starts to rise.

But I had a problem. You see, marathons don’t count for seeding in the Peachtree. And my current 5k and 10k PR’s are on courses not certified by the USATF. And because all of those are before the speedwork Tim made me do as part of training for Myrtle Beach. So I decided to give the Silver Comet 10k a try. Silver Comet races are known for being fast–they run point-to-point eastbound on an old railroad line that descends by about a 10% grade heading toward Atlanta. Also, this race bills itself as the last chance to up your corral before registration for the Peachtree in mid-March. So I registered this week and decided to spend yesterday morning in Mableton, Georgia.

I was pretty nervous about this race. To move up a corral I’d need to run an 8:42 pace, with a finish time of 53:59 or better. I wanted more like 8:39 to be in the safe zone. My previous official PR for a 10k was a perfect 9:00 pace back in October. So the goal felt… intimidating. But there’s nothing like a race to test your limits, and the course was the perfect one to go for a new PR.

I was in bed by 9:30 Friday night and all was well, until 4 a.m. when I was awoken by a sick, feverish kid. After that, I realized I was actually starting to feel pretty poor myself. I laid in bed from 4:30-5 deciding whether or not to do the race. I didn’t want to go all out if I was getting sick, and I was tired and grumpy. But when the alarm went off at 5:30 I felt like giving it a go. I suited up–first race in my Ragnar Ambassador gear!–taped my knee, grabbed my coffee and I was out the door. It was about a 45 minute drive to the start, so I shuffled through my playlist to make sure I was feeling it. I also stopped at CVS to get some Zicam. Got to the start area a little before 7. The start area, by the way, was awesome–it’s basically between two strip malls with a Kroger in one and a Publix in the other. Do you understand the better-than-porta-potty bathroom opportunities in that scenario? As one who is chronically overhydrated, this was a best case scenario for me. I got my bib, corrected a misspelling on my name, and went back to the car for a few minutes to stay warm. I spend most of the 7AM hour warming up by running from my car to Publix to use the bathroom, running around the parking lot, using the bathroom again, running back to the car to get race-ready, then running back to Publix for another bathroom break.

The start was about the most low-key I’ve seen. I went like this: Walk from parking lot around corner. Man blows air horn. Commence running. Alrighty then.

The first 1.5 miles are on roads leading to the Silver Comet Trail. Great police presence to help us make a left hand, and despite some construction on one of the roads, this was no hassle. It also allowed some distance to space out the runners before we hit the narrower trail. I had lined up toward the back of the 8:00 mile folks. When we started out, everyone went out hard. I glanced at my watch and realized I was going harder than I should. I wanted to try and keep up, but I remembered what my friend Cris always says about her smart habit of letting herself be passed at the beginning. She just looks at everyone and says something to the effect of “I’ll see you later, suckas.” It’s a great way of remembering that conserving energy at the beginning of the race will reap great dividends at the end. I slowed to 8:40 and felt how it felt. This, I thought. This is what you need to hold for the rest of the race. Okay then. At mile one there is a brief climb and I put my headphones in and went into attack mode to keep the pace. Soon enough we made the turns to get on the trail and settled in to some easy running.

The Silver Comet trail is beautiful and boring. It’s great for a race–it really is a downhill course, and you can just hone in on your goal and focus on running. I was pushing at a comfortably hard pace and seeing 8:30s every time I looked at my watch. I was no longer getting passed. I apologize, though, to anyone behind me who witnessed the great snot rocket fest that was this race. It was just could enough to get things… flowing.

Anyway. There was a water stop just past the halfway point and I grabbed a cup quickly and pressed on. Counting down now. We ran over a bridge that had a lot of sway to it. It surprised me and I felt like my legs were going to give out. I let out an audible “Woooo! That’s weird!” and it took my about a tenth of a mile to feel solid on the ground again. Shortly after that we hit the 4 mile mark. My watch read 33:45. I flashed back to my first four mile race, which I finished in about 47 minutes in ’09. To go into mile 5 in under 34 minutes… well, marking the progress I’ve made motivated me even more. In the second half of the race I had begun to pass people. I’d find myself coming up on the back of a small pack and slowly, steadily, pass them and find myself alone again. That is still a nutty feeling for me, to pass people. Conserving the energy at the start was the right thing to do.

Coming in to the last mile, I found a man to pace off of. I just told myself to hang on to him, and I did. I had read a race review last week that said the last .5 was uphill, so I had steeled myself for it. It was a slow steady climb, but I did okay–finished the final .2 at 8:08 pace.

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Final Garmin time: 52:29, average 8:26 pace.

Final chip time: 52:37, for an 8:29 pace. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Corral C for the Peachtree, here I come, with 80 seconds to spare.

I’m really, really happy with this race. To blow through my PR, and to even massively smash my goal time is just ridiculously satisfying. Less than a year ago I struggled to break an hour in the 10k. Now I have some big new goals regarding shorter distances. I’ve become a believer in the power of speed work, and now with a decent base built up from marathon training you’ll find me at the track a lot more to reach those. Here’s to goals–both old ones met and new ones to strive for!

PS: new favorite winter race finish line treat: chili from
Panera. This tasted amazing.

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