For some reason I got nervous before this race. Coach Jeff rightly put me in my place. “It’s a flipping 1/2 marathon. You run that distance at least twice a week right now. Why are you nervous?” Ah, because I knew I could beat my time, but how by much, that’s what was making me nervous.
It was cold when I got up Sunday morning. A cold front came through Atlanta on Friday, and when I got up Sunday morning for the race it felt like 43. How the heck do you dress for a race when the last time it was 43 was over 7 months ago? Yeah, I might have been freaking out about wardrobe decisions too. I settled on an all lululemon outfit of shorts, and short sleeves with arm warmers. I knew it would get warm in the sun eventually, and from past races I knew having the ability to pull or push the arm warmers up or down would be helpful (I did both several times). I think the hardest part was waiting for the race to start. Everyone was hiding where ever they could to stay warm. I found a nice little coffee shop that was letting runners hang out inside till the race started. I even found one of my team in training friends and found room for him too. There was no sense in spending energy trying to stay warm by standing outside.
There were only 3 corrals, and I wasn’t assigned to any of them, so I waded into the open corral at the 2:00 group. I knew I could get close to that time, and the fewer people I had to run around the better. The first three miles were a bit of a blur. It was still dark, really dark! The race started at 7:00am, which coupled with very few street lights made it hard to see. The first time I remember seeing my watch was somewhere between miles 3 and 4. It said I was doing a 9:00 pace. Ooppss, I was supposed to be doing a 9:20 pace according to the plan. Then I checked my heart rate. Zone 2, hmmm that’s interesting. At that point I made the decision to slow a little and run by heart rate. For the next 5 miles I hung out around a 9:14 pace, which I knew I could do easily based on my runs the past couple of weeks, and was still in zone 2. Mile 8 proved the beginning of the test.
Having been a runner in Atlanta since 2007 I know that there are any number of challenges to running in the city. To say that it’s hilly here is an understatement. When Jeff and I were looking at the elevation graph nothing struck us as being too crazy. Then I got to mile 8. After a long downhill we started climbing. Up, and the down, and back up again. It didn’t seem to stop. The heart rate monitor said I was okay. Still mostly zone 2 going into zone 3 on the hills just like my long runs. I just focused on each uphill. Keep the stride small, swing at the knees, one foot in front of the other. The biggest hills were at mile 9. A couple of them went straight up. I might have had a few choice words for them. Just keep it together till mile 10 I kept telling myself. The plan was to get to 10, and then go with whatever I had left. I had a hammer gel with me just in case that I ended up taking somewhere around mile 9. My legs were taking a beating from the uphills. Just keep it together I kept telling myself. The PR is in the bag, just get to mile 10. Mile 10 had a huge hill to begin with, probably the longest hill on the course. Just get to the top, you’re almost back to Peachtree. Once I was at the top I fired the last gear. Since I was carrying my own sports drink (Savannah uses one that I can’t drink so it was good practice to carry my own) I blew by the last water stop, and turned on Peachtree. I knew I was getting close. Yes, my legs were getting tired, but I knew I was close to the 2 hour finish mark. The last 2.1 miles were 8:55, 8:38, and 7:14. I mean who doesn’t run 10 miles, and then toss a fast final 5k on top of it? I just treated it like one of the step-up runs Jeff has me do almost every week. I knew I could do it. I crossed the line 2:01, 5 minutes faster than my previous 1/2 marathon best, and had run almost everything but the final 2.5 miles in zone 2. Crazy!!
To say that I’m happy about the race is an understatement. It makes me incredibly excited, especially with Savannah coming up in a month. Today starts the first of the final two build weeks in my schedule. Just two more 20 mile runs. Jeff told me afterwards that you get what you work for. I had done a lot of hard work this summer, and my reward was an easy PR. I could have done without a few of the hills, but I can’t wait to see what happens with 26.2 and a flat course. Yeah Savannah, I’m coming 🙂