I won an entry to 13.1 Atlanta from Elizabeth @ Running For Bling. I haven’t done any long runs on the road (does the BGR 10K count?), but I have done a few long trail runs. I figured that if I can handle 5 hours on hilly trails, then I can handle 2:30 hours or so on the road. If I had to walk, so be it. Pregnancy running may kind of suck because of the inevitable diminshing returns, but it is liberating. It is sort of like going from roads to trails/ultras for me. Yes, I have loose goals, but the satisfaction is more in finishing than anything. If I enjoy myself and finish the race upright, I’m not disappointed. If happen to perform fairly well, that’s an unexpected bonus.
This race started early (7AM) and I live a ways from the Brookhaven area. We were forewarned that parking would be limited, so I made it my business to get there an hour before race start. I was on the road at 5:15AM (ugh) and arrived right at 6AM. I was able to park in the lot but it was filling up quickly and I had to search for a space. If you don’t want to take MARTA (and walk 1 mile to start/finish) I would definitely suggest getting there early.
Having a whole hour to kill turned out to be a bit lonely. This is the second road race that I’ve done recently and I really miss the pre-race camraderie of trail races. Those races are so small and the same people tend to show up. You *always* know someone at the start. I killed time by using the PoP early and then warming up with a brisk walk and the dynamic stretching exercises we do pre-CrossFit workouts. I still had another 1/2 hour so I joined the PoP line because I inexplicably (or not…14 weeks pregnant) had to go again. The line was crazy long this time and I waited 20 minutes.
While I was in line, I noticed an insane number of people sporting the race T-Shirt. I guess that is a consequence of getting your race shirt at packet pickup. BTW, I didn’t mind pre-race packet pickup for this race (as opposed to the BGR 10K) because that is just the way road half-marathons tend to work. Anyway, I know people get annoyed with “the rules” but you just don’t wear the shirt of a race you haven’t yet completed to the race. I was wearing a blue Nike miler shirt (best short sleeve tech shirts ever!) that was way too close in color for my comfort to the race shirt. I felt like a newbie.
I was aware that there were pace groups for this race from packet pickup, but I did not sign up at the time. I will never sport one of those pace group signs on my back. I think it is so sad to see someone sporting a 1:45 pace group sign who just couldn’t hang and is now running for a 2:15 pace. I instantly think – “Poor runner! They must be having a really sucky race!” I don’t want that to be me.
I lined up with the 2:30 pace group almost in the very back. I spotted a lot of BGR voluncheers and runners. I didn’t know too many of these women, but it was good to see a lot of women of color at such a large race. A few years ago, this would not have been the case at an Atlanta half-marathon.
The race started on time in semi-darkness. It didn’t seem like that many runners were present initially, but it took me about 6 minutes to cross the start line. We headed out onto Peachtree Rd briefly before turning into Oglethorpe University. The race director’s were kind enough to provide several spotlights over troublesome areas due to the darkness. I had read several complaints about people stumbling in the dark in past years. It’s nice when RDs listen to practical suggestions.
I gave up on tagging along with the 2:30 pace group when I realized they were doing some kind of run/walk deal. I wasn’t ready to commit to any particular race strategy like that so I bypassed them. After that, I found the course traffic fairly light and was able to set an even pace without too much bobbing and weaving. There are benefits to starting in the back!
Much has been made about the hilly nature of this course and it is true. I think it is more rolling than truly hilly though. It is just that constantly rolling thing that can kind of suck. The downtown half marathons seem to have more long severe hills to deal with in addition to rollers.
I felt really good right from the start and immediately started rolling (ha!) with all the punches the course threw. I walked through the water stops but kept running otherwise. I didn’t pay attention to the pace on my watch, but I did mind my heart rate and effort level. I kept it at a mouth closed/no panting allowed level which for me was a heart rate of about 160-170. That is way above that fabled 140bpm recommeded by some doctor’s for pregnant women (not my doctor). However, effort-wise that was a conversational effort for me so it felt safe.
Once again, I was in the position of feeling way better than I anticipated during a race. The 10K mark passed and my legs felt great. My bladder situation was not so great though so I stopped at the 7 mile PoPs because the line was fairly short. I felt totally pregnant for once here because in the past, I could easily run for 2 hours without having to use the bathroom. Not anymore and this problem will only get worse.
I returned to the course quickly and set out on a chase of this girl wearing a Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra (I know my running skirts!) in a unique pattern. Her skirt made her stick out in my mind earlier and I set a goal to catch her. I was so close before nature called so I focused on finding her again even though she was nowhere in site. This is the kind of thing I do to entertain myself for 13 miles!
We had been running on Peachtree Road for a while and now moved back into the suburban neighborhoods of Dunwoody. Cue the rolling hills again. There was a nice bit of running through some park or maybe it was a private school. I usually get to a point between Miles 9-11 of a half-marathon where I am just so over the whole effort. It is so close to being done, but not close enough. On this day though, I was rocking and rolling along. I even picked up the pace a bit because I felt good and the trail was pretty flat. The Skirt Sports girl was still nowhere to be found.
I hit a mini-low point (if you can call it that) while we were in some condo complex type area. After so many miles of rolling hills, there was a long steep one and I just got really annoyed. I had run all the hills at this point and didn’t want to break my streak. I didn’t want to let this one break me but I thought it might. The cheers of some well-placed BGR spectators really encouraged me to pull it out.
We finally turned back onto Peachtree Rd for the home stretch and I knew the next 2 miles or so were flat since we had already run it before going out. Who should I see on this stretch but Skirt Sports girl? I told her that I had been chasing her for a few miles and thanked her for being my “rabbit.” Catching her again after 4 miles gave me a little adrenaline surge. I was also encouraged when I noticed the time clock and realized that I finish under 2:15 if I stayed focused. I ran strong for Mile 12 and then I kicked it into high gear for Mile 13. This was the first mile of the race where I actually felt like I was working hard (ironically enough, my pace did not reflect this).
I pushed a little harder as I turned into the finisher’s chute but didn’t break into a sprint because I appeared to be alone as I neared the final timing mat. However, some dude came out of nowhere and tried to pass me! That happens, I’m not mad at that. I was mad at the fact that he did it in a really half-hearted manner. He thought I was just going to roll over and let him take my place without working for it? I totally started sprinting (bad pregnant lady!) and re-chicked him. As we finished, I jokingly scolded him and said that if he was going to try to pass me at the end he should have put some effort into it. We both laughed and congratulated each other on a good race. I love random runner exchanges like this!
DiscoDiva was hanging out on the sidelines after finishing the 5K earlier. It only took 2 hours, but I finally found a friend (or rather she found me!). I also spotted DailyMile/BGR frield ATL Mimi in the post-race crowd. There appeared to be a lot of stuff going on after the race if you are into that thing. There were massages and music and a results tent where volunteers were writing out the results by hand.
My final tally? 2:13:12 or 10:09 min/mile pace overall. That was good enough for 1564/2809 (a tiny bit off the mid-pack), 668/1516 for the women (mid-pack!) and 143/288 (mid-pack!) for my age group. I was very pleased with how this race turned out. I truly expected to get a 2:30 so to finish more than 15 minutes faster than that was totally unexpected. It is a mystery to me why my training runs (5 miles @ ~11:00-11:30 min/miles) feel so hard, but races feel so much easier!
My splits based on analysis of my Polar watch after the race (because I didn’t pay a bit of attention to pace during the race) were as follows:
Mile 1 – 11:14
Mile 2 – 10:59
Mile 3 – 10:04
Mile 4 – 9:52
Mile 5 – 10:08
Mile 6 – 9:55
10K Split – 1:03:07 *Official
Mile 7 – 11:26 *Stupid Bathroom Break
Mile 8 – 9:49
Mile 9 – 9:55
Mile 10 – 10:22
Mile 11 – 10:31
Mile 12 – 9:53
Mile 13 – 10:03
This was a nice little local half-marathon. It was well-organized and the medal was really nice. The T-Shirt was women’s cut and a nice color. It was a little generic though because it had all of the 13.1 cities on it and nothing specific to Atlanta. I wonder if you get the exact same shirt in other cities? I’ll actually wear this shirt though unlike most race shirts that I receive.
The race course was marked with big signs and a time clock at every mile. I love that. The volunteers were friendly as always and there were quite a few spectators. The course leaves something to be desired though. It felt to me like a run I would map out on a personal training run. There was lots of running through suburban neighborhoods. If you are looking for the sites and sounds of Atlanta, this is not the race for you. The strip of Peachtree Rd that you run down is kind of depressing to me, but it did have the whole flat thing going for it.