A Georgia Half Marathon Race Report
It’s kind of hard to believe that I am starting my sixth year of training and racing. For all of those years, I have been training to see what I could do. I never felt compelled to set goals and train towards those goals. My simple accomplishments were enough to keep me going.
Then, I had a breakthrough. I remember the exact moment. It was at the start of the run for the Cohutta Springs Triathlon in 2010. I hit the ground running, and I was running hard. Look at me, Dad, I’m flying! More importantly, I wasn’t dying. That moment, more than anything else over the last five years, opened the window to possibility.
I came off my 5K race at the end of February with a huge confidence boost. My race simulation on the fifth, while not going exactly as I wanted, showed me that I needed to back off my expectations a little bit, but the fitness was there. I managed two training runs the week of the race, both of them with a little tempo. I DID NOT run in my Vibrams. There would be time for play after the race. I wanted to run Friday, but Daddy duties got in the way, and I was totally cool with taking another rest day. The knot in my calf was almost healed, and I still had some residual soreness from reffing the weekend before.
Saturday, I got up relatively early, after sleeping for 10 delicious hours. Having abstained from beer for much of the week, my sleep was deep and sound. I ate breakfast and watched me some Premier League soccer on ESPN before heading downtown to the expo. For some reason, I thought the expo was in the World Congress Center. I walked the length of the building, through the little girls waiting for their cheerleading competition, all the way to the back and out the doors. I realized I needed to check my consent form, and sure enough… The expo was at the Georgia Dome :-) I walked to the dome and found the expo. Packet pickup was all the way to the back, and there was no waiting in my line. The helpful volunteer tried to give me somebody else’s packet, but another volunteer caught the mistake immediately.
The expo was fairly nice. There were quite a few vendors. I managed to walk out with one new pack of socks. LOL… I did try on the K-swiss Blade Light Runs, and I loved them. As a matter of fact, I ordered me some online. I found the same shoes for $25.00 off AND free shipping. I like to support my local running store, but that was just too good of a deal to pass up.
I stopped at Publix (Georgia Marathon title sponsor) on the way home and picked up some hamburgers and chicken burgers for dinner. I made four of each, and since the kids weren’t excited about the chicken burgers, I ate two! They were surprisingly good, and they hit the pre-race dinner sport just right. I got the kids situated and went to bed at ten. I figured six hours of good sleep would be just about right.
My slumber was disturbed one time, around 1 AM in the morning. Other than that, I slept well. Everything was coming together so well, it was almost spooky. The alarm went off at 4 AM, and I jumped right up and got ready to rumble. After breakfast, I enjoyed two cups of coffee while I waited for my friends to come down from Canton and ride with me to the rest. The idea was take care of all pre-race business BEFORE heading downtown, and it worked well… sorta….
Jenn and Lamar showed up right on time. We all piled into my car and headed downtown. We made good time until we got to the exit for the race. Cars were backed up a bit. Note to self: next time, leave earlier. Once I got up the exit ramp, I hopped over into the car pool exit lane and made a quick left away from the race site. I went about 50 yards when I noticed an open parking spot on the street. I slipped into it and parked my car. The signs even said it was free parking on Sunday. SCORE!
Did I mention this was going so smooth it was scary?
With an hour before the race start, we mosied on over to the race site. This was Jenn’s first half marathon, and she was nervous. She wanted to go to the port-a-pots. This made me nervous. I had visions of the forty deep line at the first Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon I attended. I was pleasantly surprised to find port-a-pots a plenty, and the lines short. I even hopped into line myself for one last visit before being “race ready”.
Did I mention this was going so smooth it was scary?
We made our way out of the park and onto the street. We came out at corral “F”. I was in corral “G”, while Jenn and Lamar where in corral “M”. We said our good byes, and the waiting began. I was one of the few people in the corral already. I moved around, jigged to the music, and stretched a little to warm up my muscles. As the corral began to fill, I noticed some Japanese runners with “Pray for Japan” shirts on.
After the national anthem, the dignitaries spoke a few words, and the wheel chair race started promptly at 6:50 AM. The count down to our race went by pretty quickly. The race starter counted down from ten, yelled “go”, and we were off. Given that I was in the seventh corral, we didn’t move very fast. We all started walking, and after we crossed an intersection, we came to a screeching halt. Still, no one was fidgety or impatient. The crowd started moving forward again. It took me five minutes to cross the start line. I pressed “start” on my Timex and my Garmin. The Garmin would be auto-lapping, while I would have to manually hit the lap button on the Timex.
The race started out on a small uphill before hitting a long 2-mile downhill stretch with a few rollers. As expected, it was crowded at the start, but it was perfect for getting my pace under control. Everybody was running fairly close to my pace, and I only had to weave a little bit to create space for myself and keep my pace where I wanted it to be.
Since I was heading downhill in this stretch, I opted to allow my pace to settle in the lower end of my starting range of 8:30-8:45. I only had to remind myself twice to slow it down. Somewhere in the middle of mile 2, I came up on my friends Steph and Nat (who is a great marathon runner) who were running the marathon together. Nat asked me how I felt, and I said, “Good!” We had a nice little conversation for a quarter of a mile or so. I don’t think I’ve heard had a conversation running an 8:30 mile! LOL. The road then split into two with an island in between. I opted to take the high road, and the girls took the low road. After that, I was on my own again.
My Garmin had been beeping a couple of hundred yards ahead of the mile markers. I fully realized that this would affect my pace, but I wanted to use the Garmin for pace control, and I accepted the fact that my actual pace would be slower. I hit my first three miles right on pace: 8:33, 8:27, and 8:30. It was here that we began a long stretch of flat with rollers. For the next six miles, I wanted to keep my pace in the 8:15 to 8:30 range. I would allow my pace to fall into the low 8’s on the downhills, then watch it climb back up in to the 8:20s as I climbed the small rollers and went through the aid stations. At the aid stations, I would walk if I grabbed Gatorade. If I grabbed water, I kept running and drank it down the best I could.
My body had now reached its rhythm, and the real work began. As I ran past the Martin Luther King center, through Inman Park and Little Five Points, my mind registered the sites and buildings that I had seen before. My body still felt really strong, and I admit to being a little surprised, although I shouldn’t have been. I knew the pain and hard work was still ahead. The last three miles or so were mostly uphill. I felt like if I could hold this pace for 9, maybe 10 miles, I would have accomplished all that I wanted to accomplish.
Shortly after mile 9, we passed through the gates of Piedmont Park. I had used a long downhill stretch to turn in my fastest split of the day: 8:05. I knew the hills commeth, and I wanted a bit of padding to prepare. We exited the park on the south side and were immediately rewarded with the start of a mile or so long uphill stretch. I reminded myself that I only had to do this once, and I still managed to turn in a sub-8:30 mile. So far, I had been following the game plan to a “T”.
We all enjoyed a nice downhill stretch that took us to the campus of Georgia Tech. We ran right by the football stadium before starting our long uphill climb to the finish. Approaching the finish, I heard one spectator say we only had a “couple of minutes”, only to find out we were still half a mile away. Grrrrrr! Still, I heard the finish line up ahead, and I kept working hard. At the entrance to Centennial Park, we made a left, and I could see the finish line up ahead. I saw 1:52 on the clock, and I was just ecstatic. I crossed the finish line. pressed stop on the Garmin and Timex, and started walking.
I was tired! That last 5K was hard work, but I managed to hold my pace for the most part. I picked up a bottle of water, my medal, and a space blanket, then began to make my way through the finisher’s area. There was a long line of volunteers handing out food and drink from Publix. It was TOP NOTCH. I got chocolate milk, trail mix, pretzels, bagels, and yogurt. I can’t heap enough praise on Publix, the race, and all the volunteers. They were simply wonderful. There were bands on the course, cheer leaders, and cheering sections. Overall, the race was very well done, and I can’t wait to get back.
An online friend of mine, Fred “The Cube” grabbed me at the gate to the park, and we chatted while we waited for my friends and his wife to come in. It’s always fun meeting old friends and new faces at race sites!
Here are my splits from the race:
A 15+ minute PR. In retrospect, I learned so much from this race experience. I knew going into the race of what I was capable. I had done it in training. I put my plan together, and then I nailed it. I believe that is a first as well. It has a lot to be said for it :-)
and now? The hard work is over. I still plan to run a fall marathon. I mean. There’s a PR that needs to be corrected there as well! In between now and then, there’s triathlons that need to be done. All of them will be “for fun”, but I want to set some new goals and see if I can keep the momentum going.
but for now, we rest. I’m really tired….