Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon

My seventh half marathon is now in the books. Lucky number seven.... not so much.

While planning a Thanksgiving reunion with some girlfriends to Atlanta, I stumbled upon searched for a  fun turkey trot event. Only I really didn't want to get my butt out of head at 6am on a holiday to run a 5K. When I saw a half marathon option too, I immediately signed up. I thought it would be a great way to explore the city and definitely earn my turkey.

I've become a bit tired of the a$$-crack of dawn wake up times, endless Porto potty lines and constantly getting in the way of someones group photo. All the race materials suggested getting to the starting area an hour before the 7:30am start. Child's play, I thought. Plus our apartment was all of 3 miles away, there is no way we'd have to worry about being late.

Wrong. As we pulled onto the entrance ramp for 1-75 South, we were met with a parking lot. Traffic in the right two lanes was simply not moving and was backed up for miles. I was shocked. Shocked. And uncaffeinated thanks to a closed Starbucks and surprising lack of convience stores in downtown Atlanta, there was no coffee/breakfast stop. Kylie deserves a humanitarian award for dealing with my Jackal/Hyde reactions to this. I went from,
"It's ok, I have an electronic timer on my D-Tag. I don't need to start with everyone," to
"This is crap! This is absolute unprofessional bull!" 

We see other runners getting out of cars on the highway and heading towards the race area. To add insult to injury, we could see the course up ahead. At 7:30, I saw the half marathon runners go. At 7:45, I see the 5K start. And at 7:55, we were finally close enough that I jumped out of the car and headed opposite of where the runners were coming from.

I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of other runners stuck in traffic. I  caught up with two others who had ditched their rides and went by foot. The race started right outside of Turner's Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves. I forgot where I was for a minute and joked, "No wonder no one goes to Braves games." The one guy was no amused. Ooops. Go Phils! 

I made it to the half marathon starting line just as they were about to turn off the sensors and pull up the mats. I stomped my foot on the sensor mat and took off like a bat out of hell. I was furious too. Angry running is good running. Running to catch up to the rest of the race is good running. At first.

The first two miles were a steady incline and I was maintaining a miraculous 8:50 pace. I had to make a conscientious effort to slow down. Because I was in the back, I wasted a lot of energy passing people. At first it felt great but after a while I got really annoyed and developed a deep appreciation of the corral system. Running Guru John Bigham often jokes that if you want to have fun in race, stay to the back. I guess that is true but my good mood was a bit soured by the rough start.

The people in Atlanta are super friendly. The walkers were thanking the volunteers. You'd never see that north of the Mason Dixon Line.

This course was HILLY! It could be described as rolling hills which means a series of never ending up and downs. I was feeling really strong on well-rested legs and what I thought was a well-fueled tummy. I powered up those hills,refusing to walk or look at my watch on them. Atlanta has down hills too! It it a very beautiful city and course.  I would have stopped to take some photos but I was in race mode. Sorry, reader(s). (So instead, I used cropped race photos of me looking like I'm about to cry and further evidence that I don't lift my lefts when I run.) We went through midtown Atlanta to Piedmont Park to fancy residential areas through some college campus and ended back in front of Turner's Field.

Miles 1-8 flew by! A new PR was in sight. I crossed the 10K at 55 minutes which is really good for a non-treadmill run for me. I was perking up and despite a play list dispute with my iPod, was starting to enjoy myself. I overheard two women say how they were worried about the second part of the race which had the big hills. Huh? What? Big hills? What were these?

I began to tire at mile 10 and was absolutely miserable for the last 3 miles. I figured I had dominated the first nine miles of hills and surrendered to the final three. I tend to get sick to my stomach during the last 3 mile which is a direct result from not eating enough before or during the race. This time around I actually felt lightheaded too.It always slows me down and will be something I'll work on for my next. I walked up the hills and would do 20-30 second walk breaks. Hey, it happens.

I survived and finished my seventh half marathon! Lucky number seven it was not as I almost missed the race and then died at the end. But, I'm still proud of myself for having maintained a good pace until the end and for not yelling at anyone throughout.

My watch time is 2:12 and chip time is 2:15. Not a PR or a best race by any means, but I'll take it!

Below is a diagram of the official course map and elevation chart and my thoughts along the way.

1 comment:

  1. i've heard a lot of the ATL courses are rough. and the traffic...i won't go there. but the people really are nice...some of it is surface only (i.e. they talk behind your back), but i'll take that when it is just folks in passing (or giving me a train seat).