This is my second year running the Atlanta Half Marathon. I can honestly say that it is much better (and easier) the second time around. I had hubby drive me down to the expo opening morning to pick up my bib. He dropped me off at the curb; I jumped out, weaved my way through the crowds and hopped in line for my bib. For some reason, my corral was the only one with a line. Thankfully, I printed off the email with my number and was prepared unlike those around me. It was a ton of fun to eavesdrop on the conversations going on around me. I was in the midst of newbies. After getting my bib, I crossed over the chip timers (very classy ATC!) to get my bag and my shirt. It is a nice, technical, long sleeved shirt. Thankfully they had my size this year. That is why I went to the expo the first day and not the second. Last year they ran out of women’s size medium and I had to get a men’s. This year the shirts were unisex and a size small fit perfectly. I ran into a girl in L’s class who was there with her dad. I said hello and then ran back to the curb to meet hubby.
I was nervous all day. I’m not sure why. I think I was even more nervous than I was last year. I was crabby and snapping at my family. I don’t like to be like that. I had the usual carb heavy dinner: spaghetti with bread. Let’s say that the meal was so carb heavy that it hurt my stomach all night. Between the nerves and the carbs, I really didn’t sleep very much at all. I was up every hour, on the hour from 1 am until 5 am. I finally got out of bed at 5:30, went to the bathroom and got dressed. I ate my oatmeal and had a few sips of coffee. At 6 I got hubby out of bed to drive me to the race. He couldn’t understand why we were leaving so early if the race started at 7:30 and my corral started at 7:45.
We hit the road. I was thankful for hubby’s heated seats and my nervous chatter talked hubby’s ear off. The roads were shockingly busy the whole drive. We made it to the interstate and flew through the city, until the Grady curve. If you’ve been to the ATL, you know that the Grady curve is inexplicably stopped every.single.time. There is no reason, it just is. It is kind of like the Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle. It just is. I told hubby to take exit 246. I would hop out of the car at the top of the exit and he could turn left and get back on the interstate to head back home. Easy peasy in theory. We sat in traffic for over 30 minutes. We finally made it through and hubby dropped me off at my exit at 7:20. I ran through the streets and the parking lots to Turner Field. As I was heading down the stairs in the final lot, I heard them singing the National Anthem. I made it to the porta potty, there was still TP and hand sanitizer, Score! I had enough time to get into my corral, start my Garmin and use my inhaler. Five minutes later, my corral started. It was nice to not sit too long in the corral and freeze, but that was not enough time to prep for my race. Thank you traffic!
The weather at start time was 45 degrees. I had left my throwaway sweats in the car but brought my sweatshirt with me. Underneath, I was wearing a skirt and a tank top. I kept the sweatshirt on for the first 1.5 miles. I had bought a cheap pair of kids gloves at target and kept those on until mile 3. I was afraid that my reynaud’s would act up and bother me the whole race. Originally, I had planned to set my timer and walk after the first four minutes, just to keep from starting too fast. It took me four minutes just to work my way through the crows so I bagged that idea. Once the crowds cleared I kept a steady pace. I don’t think I took my first walk break until 2.5 miles. Even then, I think it was long enough to blow my nose and start running again. This is a decent course for aid stations. They have water every two miles. I would walk through each station and grab a cup of water and a cup of poweraid. I would have a few sips of each and then toss them. I took my gels at miles 3, 6, 9, & 12. I knew I was in for it when I was getting tired before entering Piedmont Park. The rolling hills start just as you exit the park. I am not sure why I was tired before. Maybe it was because I had to cut my last long run short? Maybe it was the poor sleep the night before? Maybe it was the increase rise in temperature? We started the race at 45 degrees and I ended the race at 66 degrees. That is quite the jump and the heat really affects my running. While The hills were not as hard as last year. I still had to walk up three of them. I was very discouraged by that. I even did hill repeats this time around. I did see the benefits of my hill work, but it wasn’t enough. I was unable to keep my min focused and not give in to thinking “these hills are hard”. On all of my training runs, I have intentionally found hills to end with to practice the mental battle. I struggled mentally on the second half of this race. Maybe it was due to the traffic and quick start time?
I had sub-goals to run 6 miles in one hour and be at or past the 11-mile marker at two hours. I can say that I accomplished both. It was my race goal to finish as close to 2:20 as I could. My finish time was 2:23! I scored a 10-minute PR from last year and consider 2:23 to be a respectable finish time this year. I am incredibly proud of my efforts considering the cards I was dealt on race day. Ideally, I was going to try to keep my pace at 10:30 miles and not break an 11:15 pace. I kept that up until mile 10 (with the exception of mile 7) and that is freakishly amazing for me!
Yes, that is kick a$$ for me! If I run this race again next year (I’m pretty sure that I will just to beat this year’s time and shoot for another 10 minute PR but race day morning I always say no due to nerves and traffic) I will find even more hills to train on. A friend of mine who ran this race in 1:46 described it perfectly, “The race doesn’t start until you leave the park. It’s a 10k race with a 10k warm up.” While those hills are killer, it was nice to know what and when to expect them. I saw great improvement from last year and am excited to see even more improvement next year!
Lessons learned for next time. Training Runs: I will find a way to run 7 miles and then do hill repeats, that will mimic race day perfectly. I will find a way to beat the mental battle and keep my mind focused. I will score another 10 minute PR. I will realize that I am Galactically Bad A$$ (GBA) for running this race and I will not compare myself to others. There will always be people faster than me and there will always be people slower than me—All that matters is that I give it 110%.
Happy running y'all!