Tuesday, December 13, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #9 Hill Repeats on Amsterdam Ave!

Do I like running hills?  HILL YES! 

As I spent the second half of 2011 training for the ZOOMAAtlanta Half Marathon, I found myself seeking out every hill possible so I would be prepared for the race on Saturday, November 26th.  All I kept hearing from others who did the race last year was how many hills were on the course!  I took their words of caution seriously and decided to take on the challenge!

One of my favorite places to practice hill repeats is Amsterdam Ave.  Amsterdam Ave. stretches from Monroe Drive in Midtown near Piedmont Park, through Virginia-Highlands to Rosedale Road near Emory’s Briarcliff Campus.   There is a short steep section from Rosedale Road to Lanier Blvd, then there is a long, gradual uphill section from Lanier Blvd to N. Highland Ave.  But wait, it gets better!  I like to make this even more fun by continuing on Amsterdam, past N. Highland Ave, and turning around just before it curves around to Monroe Dr.  Then, I like to head back up Amsterdam Ave. for a longer, uphill stretch!  Then, I like to do it all over again and again! 

Over the years, I’ve learned that hills are a great way to build strength, speed and endurance.  When I was a participant with Team in Training back in 2003 and training for my first triathlon, one of the Coaches gave me tons of tips on running hills.   He said things like, “Shorten your stride”, “Pump your arms”, “Be okay with the fact that your heart rate is high…It will come back down when you start to run downhill”, “Don’t look down”, “Keep up the short strides and arm pumping until you get all the way over the hill”.  His voice still echoes inside me to this day when I’m running hills!

As ZOOMA race day approached, I knew I was ready!  I had a plan: 1st 10 miles, take it easy and run in Zone 2 near a 10 minute mile pace.  Last 3.1 miles, kick it in to high gear and attack each hill.  Like all well laid plans, this one changed a bit along the way.  Here is how my race actually went: 1st 6 miles, I took it pretty easy and stayed in Zone 2.  I fluctuated between a 9:45 and a 10:30 minute mile pace.  After the halfway point, I decided to pick it up by staying faster than a 10 minute mile pace, regardless of my heart rate.  The hills kept coming and coming.  I didn’t let them intimidate me!  I really tried to capitalize on the downhills because, “What goes UP, must come DOWN”!  Also, it helped to see some familiar faces from Tri-Kids at the short, steep uphill that was the 12-Mile Mark!  Woo Hoo!  I was stoked and I took off like a kid who just stole the last Wonka bar with the Golden Ticket!  As I rounded the end of the course at Chateau Elan, the finish line was in sight.  I turned the corner and booked up the FINAL HILL to cross the line at 2:08:12, which was a PR!  HOLY MOLY that was a tough race!  But so rewarding!   Not only was it a PR, but it was really fun to share the experience with a bunch of fantastic, tough, fast, motivated women!  You know who you are!   <wink>

Training for and completing this race reiterated my belief that hills are my friends!  Not everyone agrees and that’s okay.  There are plenty of flat race courses out there.  Me?  I’ll run for the hills in a heartbeat! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #8 Running in Atlanta Memorial Park!

Two weeks ago, running at the Active Oval at Piedmont Park was the focus of my blog.  Today, I want to let everyone know about Atlanta Memorial Park.  Most of us refer to it as simply, “Memorial Park”.  This is a location I keep in my back pocket for days when I need to do a Tempo run, but am feeling a bit unmotivated.  Why?  Because once I pull this park out of my pocket, I remember how beautiful and doable it is. 

I love doing Tempo runs at this park because it is actually a fairly flat course.  The course I’m referring to consists of Woodward Way, Northside Drive, Wesley Drive, Howell Mill Road, Peachtree Battle Avenue, back to Woodward Way, which equals 1.8 miles.  I like to park for free on Woodward Way near Peachtree Battle.

My Tempo workout at Memorial Park consists of running the first loop easy, the second loop in Zone 4 and the third loop easy for a nice 5.4 mile workout.  To me, this is a very doable Tempo run especially when I’m not feeling like getting out there!

After a bit of research, I discovered that Memorial Park once saw part of the bloody 1864 Civil War Battle of Peachtree Creek, as Confederate forces tried to keep the Union troops from closing in on Atlanta. Historic markers are located throughout the park for you to enjoy. 

The park land was a gift to Atlanta in 1929 from former Sen. Hoke Smith, J.W. Bedell and the Howell family, for whose ancestors Howell Mill Road was named. Development of the park began in 1933 which coincided with the bicentennial of the founding of the state of Georgia in 1733. Its original design envisioned it as a memorial forest, and many of the specimen trees originally planted still provide shade for the park.

Right now, the trees are gorgeous with the different shades of the leaves.  You better hurry if you want to experience this park in the Fall because Winter is drawing near!  Whatever the season in Atlanta, Memorial Park is an excellent place for a run!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #7 Running in Piedmont Park!

There are so many reasons why Piedmont Park is a great place to train in Atlanta!  I won't bore you with all the crazy workouts I’ve done at the park and just highlight one location in particular: The Gravel Track surrounding The Active Oval! 

The Active Oval is host to lots of activities for those who live in Atlanta including softball and kickball, however I prefer to stick to the track.  It’s not that I’m not a team player, I just lean toward individual sports.

The surface of the track is packed gravel which gives your legs a break from the pounding of concrete and asphalt.  The distance around the track is .52 miles which is marked by the marble obelisque, donated by The Atlanta Track Club in 2006.  Each 200 meters is marked with a marble plate on the ground.  It’s always nice to find a place to run that is measured.

Over the past few years, I’ve been diligent about adding interval workouts to my training routine.  Also, these types of workouts are often prescribed to the athletes I coach.  The gravel track is a great place to knock out this type of training.  The track is twice the size of a regulation track of 400 meters and I believe it is less intimidating than a regulation track.  As a Coach, it is fun to practice and share different workouts that aren’t as strict with the intervals.  For example, here is one of my favorite workouts:

Warm-Up: 2 Loops at a Comfortable Pace

Set: 6 x 1 Loop Builds with 2 minute and 30 second recovery jog between each Loop Build.

Loop Builds: For each loop, start off easy and progressively get faster at each of the quarter loop marks around the track where the last quarter loop is a sprint.

Cool-Down: 1 Loop at a Comfortable Pace

The gravel track is an excellent location for beginners to run, not to mention those who are coming back from an injury or illness.  All levels of runners and walkers can be found on the track on any given day.    

Another fantastic reason to visit the track is the scenery!  Right now, the fall leaves are beautiful!  It is so picturesque to see the backdrop of Midtown and Downtown against the bright blue sky! 

Check out the gravel track at Piedmont Park for you next workout!  You will enjoy the forgiving surface, the scenery and the variety athletes around you!

If you enjoy Piedmont Park, consider joining the Piedmont Park Conservancy.  They are the nonprofit organization, working with the City of Atlanta for the preservation of historic Piedmont Park.  Over the past 20 years, the Conservancy has successfully transformed the once dilapidated Park into the most visited in green space in Atlanta. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #6 Swimming at MLK Natatorium!

“This is no time for apathy and complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I started coming to the Martin Luther King Jr. Natatorium back in 2008 when I was coaching a group of athletes who wanted help with their swimming. It was a great place to swim because they had recently remodeled the facility, it was open to the public and it was only $2 per visit. Things have changed a bit over the years. They no longer allow me to provide swimming lessons (they have their own instructors), they are closed on Fridays and they now charge $4 per visit. Regardless, it is still a great place to swim in Atlanta! I especially enjoy swimming at MLK in the morning. The floor-to-ceiling windows give a wonderful view of the sunrise!

The pool is located at 70 Boulevard NE near Auburn Ave. The parking lot at the natatorium is closed. Parking is free and the lot is located on John Wesley Dobbs Ave NE off of Boulevard near Jackson St. NE. It is always a pleasure walking from the parking lot to the natatorium and reading the plaques on the sidewalk with the names of the “soldiers of justice” who promoted equality for all. This is known as the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame and includes names such as Rosa Parks, President Jimmy Carter, Justice Thurgood Marshall, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Mayor Maynard Jackson, just to name a few.

The natatorium is open for lap swimming Monday through Thursday, starting at 6:00am and goes until 5:00pm. They are also open in the evening, starting at 6:30pm until 8:00pm. There are several activities happening on Saturdays, however I have usually been able to swim between 10:00 – 11:00am. The pool is closed on Fridays and Sundays. Be sure to call the folks at MLK at 404-658-7330 if you have any doubt about when they are open for lap swimming.

The indoor pool has six 25-yard lanes. The temperature of pool varies, however it is usually set around 80 degrees. There are locker rooms and showers on the bottom level, along with a workout room that is also open to the public.

I would definitely recommend purchasing a City of Atlanta Office of Recreation Aquatic annual pass for $110. This pass will allow you to swim at all the city pools, including Chastain Park and Grant Park. All you need is documentation that you are a resident of the City of Atlanta and a money order. Take these two items to MLK and they will provide you with the pass after you finish your swim workout!

I will be heading to the pool at MLK more often now that summer is winding down and the outdoor pools will be closing. I hope you all keep up your training over the Fall and Winter! The Spring races will be here before you know it!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #5 Trail Running at East Palisades Indian Trail!

After spending this past weekend in the mountains with my husband, I was reminded how much I love trail running after hiking at the Black Rock Mountain State Park in Clayton, Georgia! After arriving home on Sunday, I woke up Monday morning, laced up my La Sportivas and headed to East Palisades Indian Trail, the group of trails that are part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Most people don’t realize these trails are ITP (Inside the Perimeter)!

The entrance to the park is just off of Northside Drive and Indian Trail in Northwest Atlanta. There is a short drive to the end of Indian Trail where you are greeted by the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area sign leading you along a gravel road to the parking lot. The park is open from dawn to dusk. Parking is $3 unless you have an annual pass which is $25. Annual passes can be purchased online. Mark your calendar for National Public Lands Day which is September 24th. The parking fee is waived for visitors in observance of this day!

The main trail is easily located from the parking lot. Once on the trail, runners will follow the blue blazes as they are led down to the river. Be careful! The trail is rather steep in a few areas. At the bottom, the trail levels out as runners approach the Chattahoochee River. Since the trail follows beside the river, runners are treated to beautiful views of the river through the trees. After following the river, the trail turns to head back up. There are spots along the trail that wind around trees and there are several hairpin turns. Again, there are many steep sections as runners head up this part of the trail. At the top of the trail, runners are lead to the gravel road. Make a right turn to head back to the parking lot. The trail is approximately 2.4 miles. This past Monday morning I decided to do the loop two times for a nice 5.8 mile run. I encountered three other hikers on the trail, two of which had their dogs on a leash. The times I have visited this trail, there have been just a few others along the way, however I have encountered runners and hikers who do not leash their dogs. Be sure to stay alert and keep your eyes open for any obstacles.

All runners are encouraged to check out East Palisades Indian Trail as a place to train in Atlanta! If you are new to trail running, this is a great place to get started due to the fact that the trail is short! If you are planning on participating in Vision Trek 10K Trail Run benefitting Georgia Eye Bank, scheduled for Saturday, March 3, 2012, this is a wonderful location to practice your hill climbing skills! If you want to beat the Atlanta heat, you will stay a lot cooler running on this trail since the trees offer a ton of shade.

I hope to see you on the trail! Enjoy your training!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #4 Swimming at Chastain Park Pool!

As the dog days of summer are winding down, I am taking every opportunity to swim outdoors. One of my favorite places to swim has always been the Chastain Park Pool. The pool is clean, refreshing and open to the public!

The pool is run by the Chastain Park Athletic Club (CPAC). CPAC was founded in 2002 as a Georgia 501c3 non-profit corporation and was organized and at all times shall be operated exclusively for public charitable and educational uses and purposes.

Chastain Park Pool is located at the intersection of West Wieuca Road and Elliott Galloway Way (formerly Pool Road). There is free parking on both West Wieuca Road and Elliott Galloway Way. The pool boasts (8) 25 yard lanes, which are only crowded during the hours of swim team practice. The hours are as follows:

Monday – Friday: 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM free public swim time, 12:30 - 5:00 PM paid public swim time $1/children (5 yrs and under), $2/child (6 yrs - 16), $4/adult (17 yrs - 64), $2/senior (65 yrs and up) and 5:00 - 8:00 PM Chastain Pool members only (Fridays till 9:00 PM).

Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM $1/children (5 yrs and under), $2/child (6 yrs - 16) , $4/adult (17 yrs - 64), $2/senior (65 yrs and up) and 5:00 - 8:00 PM Chastain Pool members only.

Chastain Park Pool is a wonderful, outdoor pool to use for “getting your swim on”. You better hurry! The gate to the pool will close at the end of the day on Sunday, September 11th.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

9 Great Places to Train in Atlanta - #3 Running in Virginia Highlands/Emory/Morningside!

Matt Cole, CEO and Founder of Podium Multisport, introduced me to running in the Virginia Highlands/Emory/Morningside area, which is conveniently located to his store on Zonolite Place. I instantly fell in love with this area. Why? Three reasons: 1.) The beauty of the homes in the area, 2.) The hills, and 3.) The hospitality provided by everyone at Podium Multisport!

The homes around Virginia Highlands, Emory and Morningside are old, quaint and well maintained. Many of the homes show off their well manicured lawns, lush trees, bushes and flowers. It is so much fun to pick a new “favorite home” during each run!

The hills on this course are nothing to sneeze at! They are large and plentiful. A good workout will be had by all. Enough said!

Every Thursday Podium Multisport hosts a Group Run of 5.5 miles, starting at 7:00pm. Not only do they provide maps, they also provide ice-cold Ironman Perform sports drink by PowerBar for everyone to enjoy before and after the run! After dreaming about living in one of the homes in the neighborhood and sweating up and down all the hills, I’m usually ready for a cold beverage!

Anyone who lives in the area is encouraged to check out the Group Run on Thursday evenings. All runners and triathletes are welcome! I hope you enjoy the neighborhoods, the hills and the hospitality as much as I do!