The Georgia Half Marathon was my first ever race in 2010. And it was my strong showing in the race in 2011 that gave me courage to sign up for my first marathon later that year. I’ve signed up every year since for it (although I didn’t actually end up running it a couple of years since it was 2 weeks after my Spring Marathon and I can’t really call it “running” last year when I ambled to the finish with friends). This year, the Georgia Half Marathon meant business. Even though (or because?) it is one of the toughest courses in Atlanta.
It might’ve been the most weird pre-race prep that I’ve had (and hopefully I’ll ever have!). Between rushing around for kids activities and friends and everything that you don’t expect to happen, I forced only the instructions from Training Peaks to stay in my mind.
There was a ton of storm brewing. I managed (?) to stay in the eye of the storm and was pretty calm (well … as calm as I could possibly be).
With 100% chance of rain predicted, I was more concerned with what to wear than anything else! No sparkly costume this time, thanks to the rain. I chose this outfit at the last minute for the symbolism. I wanted cheetah fast legs and Ganesha would remove all obstacles to ensure that I would succeed.
With a babysitter arranged, Mr. FauxTriathlete and I drove down to the race start to meet everyone at the MARC tent. Barbara, Dawn, Barry and I started in the same corral together. I also got to meet Lizzy who I’d been talking to on facebook.
When the corrals were off, I lost Dawn and Barbara pretty early on. Barry was with me for about 2 miles and then suddenly it seemed like I lost him. I tried to spot him but there was a sea of people running, all dressed in trash bags, and it was futile.
Miles 1 – 3
I was to maintain a 13:00 pace over those initial miles. And I did. No problem.
Lane, a fellow Disney/Triathlete geek, was around mile 3 or so and he ran a few steps with me. I told him I was feeling good so far. And when he asked if I planned to walk any, I vehemently told him NO. I wasn’t planning to walk any.
To be honest, I was surprised at how passionately I replied. Was this the same person who easily fell into walking intervals at Dopey? Was this the same person who never thought twice about walking (or stopping for selfies and photos) in a race?
Miles 4 – 7
They were to be 12:30 paced over rolling hills. And I did. Or ….. I thought I did.
The “12:30” pace over the rolling hills felt a little harder than I expected to. And immediately my mind’s evil twin voice went to the pace based long runs I’d done where I’d be running strong until I hit that 12:30 pace requirement; one mile or so into that 12:30 and I’d fall apart. And there was a 12:00 pace to come …. .??
NOT a good idea to go places in my head.
But just as immediately as evil twin had spoken up, my mind’s sensible voice shoved the evil twin aside and told me just keep going. My legs weren’t about to fall off yet.
Again – I was surprised at how easily the sensible voice spoke up. Where was that back and forth that I usually have?
These were a nice downhill stretch that was to be at 12:00 and that I was told not to take too hard and trash my legs. I stuck to a pace that showed 12:15 in my Garmin and was confused for a bit.
The average pace had been the same as my lap pace since the start of the race.
Huh? I had just set up average pace that morning, did I mess it up? And I couldn’t see clearly in the rain what it was? Why was I not able to hit the 12:00 pace no matter how much I tried?
Shawna and Erin were around mile 8, very hard to miss with tutus and wigs and tiaras. Shawna ran some steps with me and I said I was feeling it but I had about 1 mile of reprieve before the hills actually hit.
Just like that my confusion over the weird pacing cleared (Who could not smile over such infectious enthusiasm?). Worrying about numbers wasn’t important at that point. I had to use the last mile of downhill to pull in all my resources together to tackle the hills. And so I ran as relaxed as possible.
Before I knew it, we entered Piedmont Park. That last bit of calm signaling the start of the hills.
Mike had told me that I needed to be at 12:30 or slightly under when coming out of Piedmont park. I was at 12:14. Umm…. not good …. why was I at 12:14 (and why was my average pace still the same as my mile pace)?
Miles 10 – Finish
There was no time to ponder. There were hills to focus on. Climbing the nasty nasty hill coming out of Piedmont park, the genuine smile I’d carried throughout was replaced by a grimace that I tried to pass off as a smile. The hills kept hitting relentlessly. And all I could do was keep moving forward. I saw Callie and Bethany and tried to hang on, but they are 9:xx runners and I knew there wasn’t any point in pushing to keep up even though they were running for “fun”.
When I crested the hill, my heart sank thinking of 3.5 more miles of this … And that sinking feeling continued until I saw the cheering squad of Big Peach at Midtown. I spotted Karen and grabbed her hand. I don’t know why or what I said to her. But seeing her there unexpectedly gave me a little heart.
And enthusiastic DJ Jarian at mile 11(?) was a welcome sight (I’d never met him before, but I knew through facebook to look out for him and it is hard to miss a DJ!).
This is Stacey with DJ Jarian. Stacey awesomely paced her friend to a sub-2 half and then took MARTA to meet the last of the full marathoners at mile 13 of their course and ran them ALL in (close to 7 hours). Speechless!
The part where you enter Georgia Tech campus is a brutal part of the race. Hills, hills and more hills. My hip flexors were screaming at this point. Absolutely hating me. I came across Brandi on that stretch. I tried to hang in with her, but she was doing 1:30/xx run-walk intervals and I couldn’t stay with her. (I thought she had moved ahead, but apparently I was the one who went on. I was becoming slightly confused at that point.)
I went up a monster hill on North Avenue and turned on to Tech Parkway and …. I was done. I had just about 1.5 miles to go, but I was done. There was the Georgia Tech cheering squad all out in full force and I couldn’t even see them straight. I couldn’t drink and run anymore and had to walk to drink water.
When I’d walk to drink water, I felt dizzy. It made me wonder what the right thing to do was. Should I take it easy because I was feeling dizzy (never a good thing) or should I continue to run because I wasn’t feeling dizzy when I was running? Most of all, dizzy or not, I was DONE.
Taking it easy was such an inviting option – I could walk the rest of it and still PR.
I could walk and … Stop right there, yelled sensible voice. The point of today’s race is not only a PR. The point of the race is to learn to dig deep and push through.
Dig deep from where?
I could not even search around my mind for an answer and soon it was just one thing in my head – “Just don’t give up now.” I had come too far to give up. It wasn’t an option. I had told Lane in the beginning that I wouldn’t walk and I would stick to it.
So I went on .. and on … and on … on that last 1.5 miles that is a gradual incline that ends about 50yds from the finish, telling myself to just go on and not give up. Jill, out cheering in the pouring rain, gave me a shout out and I saw her from the corner of my eye but I didn’t register anything.
It was also (apparently) pouring rain by then. I didn’t even notice – I had lost all sense of feeling, even of pain.
Usually in the last bit of the race, I sprint in as hard as I can. There was no sprint that day. Just the same pace.
When I finished, I was laughing and crying and overwhelmed with emotion. A little bit of hyper breathing too because I couldn’t control myself. Whatever had held my thoughts and emotions together for 13.44 miles was let out.
I don’t know how I managed to walk back to the tents. Once I got there, I alarmed Mr. FauxTriathlete by my laughing/crying hyper breathing and then I threw up. He calmed me down a bit and got some crackers and OJ, and I threw up again (dry heaving actually).
He had had a GREAT race and ran very even to come in at 2:08. He was shooting for 2:10 and ran with the pace group until the last 2 miles where he went on ahead.
Somehow throwing up made things better and I began to look for my race splits.
THEN it hit me – I had been running without recording mile splits!!! No wonder my lap pace was the same as my average pace – it was all one big 13.44 mile lap!
Oh Fudge !!
Later on, Mike did the splits and gave me the actual numbers.
Mile 1-3 (planned 13:00, actual 12:57)
Mile 4-7 (planned 12:30, actual 11:47 –ouch! No wonder the miles had felt hard at “12:30”)
Mile 8-9 (planned 12:00, actual 11:52 – not bad)
Mile 10 – finish (planned 11:45, actual 12:30 – ouch, ouch, but not surprising after that 2nd stretch that I messed)
My average HR for the miles 10-finish was 182, with a recorded high of 196! So he said I was working there. Go me!
The first half of the race was at 12:28 and the second half was at 12:07, so I negative split the race. Score!
Hearing Mike say that I’d done good was a HUGE pat on the back. After all the second guessing I’d been doing about bike splits at Augusta and doubts of being physically able to complete it in the allotted time, maybe, just maybe I had a better chance than I thought
While it wasn’t a physically strong finish, it mentally was.
There was no second guessing in my head about stopping to walk.
There was no doubts about the fact that I just had to go on. Even when I knew that I wasn’t going to make my “A” time target.
The rain didn’t bother me; I didn’t even notice that it was raining hard until someone pointed out in a photo I posted.
Pre-race I didn’t fret about paces and hills and rains and … whatever else I could not control.
Even bigger than getting through the last miles was me ACCEPTING that it was going to be hard and acknowledging the pain to the point where pain stopped bothering me. I know it sounds crazy, but KNOWING that it was going to hurt, and knowing that I had CHOSEN to be ok with the pain brought a different outlook to the whole race.
One of the most unexpected testimony to my race came when Tracie posted this to our group. We had been going back and forth at the same-ish pace (she was doing intervals) almost all race from about the midway point.
So there it was – a shiny new 4 minute PR on the Long Road to Augusta 70.3
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