I did it! I finished. Just a warning, it’s a pretty long post so I hope you’re in for a read!
2 hours, 5 min, 10 seconds. That is how long it took me to run 13.1 miles on Sunday. Not the sub 2 hour time I was looking for, but given the hilliness of that course, I WILL TAKE IT!!!! I finished 24th in my age group (out of 141, so top 17%) and 375th overall (out of 1597, so top 23%). I also chopped 4 minutes of my half marathon time from two years ago on a flat course (Oh Chicago, I missed you today!).
Everything went according to plan this week. I ran three miles Wednesday, two Thursday, walked 3 Friday and ran 10 minutes on Saturday. I relaxed most of Saturday, ran a few errands, read a new book and waited for Jarob to get home so we could go get our Greek fix on. The gyro sandwich did not disappoint and I wish we would have remembered to take a photo before we ate, but here’s one to show our happy gyro-filled faces.
I guess the only thing I would have changed was Saturday night’s sleep. I could not fall asleep for the life of me. I had a million thoughts running through my head and kept having that “you have to get up soooo soon” feeling preventing me from total relaxation. I probably got 3.5 to 4 hours, which is really plenty if you slept well the night before (something about that whole 2 day sleep cycle thing, right?). Regardless, I didn’t feel tired and woke up ready to get the day started. I laid out my clothes and gear the night before so all I had to do was have a cup of coffee, stretch, make a quick breakfast and hit the road. I decided earlier in the week to have a peanut butter bagel for my pre-race meal and I waited until exactly 1.5 hours til race time to eat it. I also made Jarob a “snack pack” since he was getting up just as early and had time to kill until it was all said and done with. See blueberry muffin (baked yesterday) greek yogurt and raisin bran to top it off. Not pictured: the banana he didn’t end up eating. The drive up to Atlanta was a breeze and we were parked and looking for restrooms before 6am.
Speaking of restrooms. I was shocked I saw zero porta-potties on site. After borrowing a hotel bathroom, I head a fellow runner mention that the director of the race was in a panic because the company they ordered potties from FAILED TO DELIVER. Everyone was dashing in and out of several hotels trying to finish their business before race time. Right before 7am, they made an announcement over the loud speaker that there would be porta-potties placed at mile 2, so just hold it until then. There were three porta-potties at mile two, and NONE for the remaining 11 miles. While I can run a half without a bathroom break, it’s not the norm for a lot of people. Whoops!
Getting away from bathroom business, there were 5 corrals, A-E. There was no gating off of bibs, anyone could enter whenever they wanted and creep up toward the front if they pleased. I settled myself near the 2 hour pacer and hoped that I would be able to reach my goal with him by my side. I stuck with the pacer through mile 5 when I somehow slowed down and lost him 😦 I ran the remaining race by myself, pretty spaced out between packs. Kind of the way I like to swing things, I guess you could say I’m an independent runner. (I did manage to find my long lost brother, Red. See the resemblance?!)
Now onto the course. Hot damn. I read reviews of this hilly mess, but I did not realize the first mile was uphill, followed by hill after hill after hill, stopping for some flat space around 7-9, leading to the BIGGEST HILL OF THEM ALL at mile 10. When you can round a corner and see runners walking left and right, when the hill is big enough to scare you just by the sight of it, you know you’re in for it. I ran through mile 10, stopped around 10.5 to walk a bit and catch my breath, ran again through the water station at 11, walked a few steps to drink and ran until mile 12 water station where I did the same thing as the preceding mile. I hated the fact that I walked here and there the last three miles, but I loved the fact that I had my best energy miles 5-10. I normally hit a wall around 7 and push through until 10, but every day is a new day and you do what you can.
My strategy for bringing my own hydration worked great. I was able to scoot past the first 9 water stops, grabbing my first water at miles 10, 11 and 12. I also ate my twizzlers around 5 and 8 (who knows, maybe thats why 5-10 were easier than past years). I always thought people who ran with handheld water bottles were weirdos, but I can attest, they’re on to something.
Atlanta plays a cruel joke on you, winding you around hilly streets, with high humidity and high temps. The route was indeed scenic. We saw the state capitol, Turner Field, the historic MLK district, among other things. My favorite part of the course was the beltway, a well paved trail throughout the city. It reminded me of the Monon Trail in Indianapolis. After all was said and done, I saw Jarob on the last tenth of a mile and smiled for the camera. It was nice having someone to cheer me on and support me. A+ for race coach, race support and photographer. Not sure if I would run this race again. Maybe now that I know what I’m in for I wouldn’t be so taken aback, but after every big race I’m kind of ready for a running break anyway. Ask me in a week if 2017 is in the cards 🙂
My final thought for the race is the fact that Chicago does things bigger and better. In my Chicago races there are clocks at every mile marker, high visual mileage signs and excellent post race snacks. Atlanta had knee high mile markers, no clocks, and very few options for post race fuel. (Bananas, mini bagels, granola bar samples). I missed the chocolate milk, pretzels and anything else you could ever want. The Atlanta race wins in scenery and in effort required. One more race down and one more day spent exploring our new city.