I’ve done the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon 3 times before – and except for the first time (where I went under 3hrs in a half marathon for the first time), the race has always ended in frustration for me; tears even.
But it is a kind of tradition to run, brag and eat.
Training Peaks said that I had to run the race with a steady pace of 13:30 – “If you think “let’s put some time in the bank” at the start, you will likely bounce the check.” was the accompanying message.
My immediate thoughts were – AYFKM!!
13:30 for the first half of the race was ok, but HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MAINTAIN THAT STEADY PACE IN A SECOND HALF THAT IS DOUSED IN NASTY HILLS!!
However, I didn’t want Mike to think I was being a wimp and so I vaguely texted him saying that the second half was hilly, and I hadn’t run hills on my long runs, and other vague excuses. His only constant reply was “You got this”.
I was trying to be calm, but inside I was again screaming AYFKM !!! But a little less louder this time… No point in getting too worked up about something that wasn’t going to change, is there?
The Costumed Runner!
To take my mind off the pace target, I focused on my costume instead. After going back and forth with the weather, I decided to go with my original costume idea of an Indian dressed as an Indian. A quick trip to the fabric store and 5 min on the sewing machine and I was done and flat FauxRunner was ready!
Barry was doing the race and convinced Dawn to run it too! So it was the Divas gang all over except they were in Orange instead of Pink this time around. We took care to drive in early and just waited in the car until 15min to the start (clean portapotties! Score!).
They were in corral B and I was in corral E and in spite of my nervous protests about jumping corrals, we started in Corral C together.
This was also my first race with GenUCan as my primary fuel. So I did a mixture of 1/2 banana + 1 scoop whey protein + 2 scoops UCan about 1 hour before the start and carried a similar “gel” in a hip flash (for a midrace swig!) but never needed it.
Barry and I ran together for most part, with Barry doing run-walk and me running straight out while Dawn went on ahead with her run-walk intervals. I tried to block out the mental image of the hills that I knew were coming. I had set my Garmin to display only the lap pace and lap distance. Run each mile in the moment. That’s all I was going to do.
Which indadvertedly led me to my Garmin user error! I didn’t realize that the Garmin had not been reset from Mr. FauxTriathlete’s run the day before and my race picked up from where he’d left off. I thought it was weird that I got a mile indicator way before the mile marker was up; and my pace went from a perfect 13:30 to 14:10 in a matter of seconds after that mile indicator on the Garmin. To fix the error manually, I hit lap when I saw mile marker 2. Since I was paying attention only to pace per mile, I didn’t care that the total distance and average pace was messed up.
There was a long, but not too steep incline alongside IKEA and a water stop placed right in the middle of the incline. I tried to run while drinking but after snorting water up my nose, decided to walk the few steps I needed to drink. 4 seconds. I counted.
The turn after that was what I considered my first “hill repeat”. Steep, long AND it continued even after the road turned a corner. I knew this was the first of the hills but was a little shaken at how long it seemed. But I got to the top without walking and gave a little punch in the air and a whoop before cresting to coast downhill.
At some point, around mile 5ish, I remember thinking that I was feeling “fresh”, not like I had run just 5 miles and facing 8 more.
On entering Piedmont park, Mari from BlueIron Coaching spotted me and gave me a shoutout!
I knew that the hill coming out of Piedmont park would be the worst. There was no escape and I mentally prepped myself to hit the hill. Before I knew it, I had gone up that hill, and it wasn’t so bad after all.
After that, the hills kept coming over and over! Each hillier than the previous one. When I passed Oakland cemetery, I remembered a sign from my first year saying “Cemetery Ahead. Look Alive.” Kept me in chuckles as I took on that big hill passing the cemetery.
There were rolling hills and then there were HILLS! I kept counting the big hills as a mental distraction. 12 in all.
And I only walked for about 5-7 seconds near the top of one. I cursed out aloud as I stopped to walk, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to start back running. But I was surprised how quickly I got my momentum back!
Before I knew it, I was at that section around mile 10-11 where the previous years I’ve always been done. Not this time. I told Barry that I was actually still feeling happy. He replied that he’d be happy when he saw mile 12. 🙂
And then it was the familiar turn into the Olympic rings and I sprinted in.
I think I started to tear up a little, but that was very quickly replaced by sheer elation, amazement and joy. No crying for me this time around (the last time I ran this, I burst into tears coming up the finishers chute because I was so miserable)!
The whole race was run happy and I finished happy.
The hardest part of the whole race was the first few really bad hills that I had to run over. Once those were scaled (especially the one coming out of Piedmont Park at midway point), I knew I could climb every mountain that the course threw at me. Physically, of course this was all in the air, but it was a leap for me to mentally understand that I *could* run up every hill if I wanted to. Mentally, I was ready to climb and that was more than half the battle won.
Another hard part of the race was having to continue running when almost everyone around me were walking. This is something that the faster runners rarely understand. At a faster pace (and hence assumed to be a stronger runner), runners walk only when tired and that is mostly towards the end of the race. At my pace of 12:30+, people walk a lot (Me included when I did run-walks). So having to run up a hill when a sea of people are walking, including your running buddy with uber long legs, is not a very encouraging sign. It was very hard not to turn my towards the pointless question – why was I choosing to torture myself by running up when I could walk for a few seconds?
Within seconds of finishing, I got a call from home (I had told Mr. FauxTriathlete that I was supposed to finish at 2:57 and would be starting around 7:40am). HA! First time in FOREVER that he has been interested in my race results.
And a very inadequate text went out to Mike!!
Did I think I could run the whole race, and run it on pace target?
Who am I kidding!
He!! No! I didn’t think I could.
I had no idea how I would be able to. But instead of letting it worry me, I put it out of my mind and was just going to run. My only “race plan” was to run each mile at 13:30. One mile at a time.
I have NO idea how I maintained pace up the hills. And how I managed to actually improve on it towards the later miles!
I may not have finished as fast as my (former) running buddies, but I finished strong and happy. Never once did I feel that I was ready for this to be done with. And I had enough energy to shop for 7 hours on my feet the next day, AND run for another 2hrs 45min on Saturday!
The race was a much needed mental boost as I prepare to register for a big race in 2015! Most importantly, knowing that I do not (always) mentally fold in on a pace target long run reinforced confidence in myself.
Bring on Dopey!!
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