With my target marathon being Revel Mt. Hood, a downhill race in Oregon, I looked to do the Teardrop half marathon. The race started on top of Fort Mountain at an elevation near 3000 feet, through the Cohutta Wilderness Area and finished in Chatsworth, Georgia, for an over 2000-foot drop for the Half Marathon.
What I LOVE about the Atlanta running community (and triathlon community when I was doing triathlons) is how I go to a race all alone and yet meet up with a whole bunch of people I know and never really be all alone. Having a group of friends to welcome you warmly makes such a big difference when you are an extroverted introvert like me.
Read carefully when a race says “Downhill”
Yes, there is a HUGE elevation down from mile 5 to mile 12, but the first 5 miles of the race is rolling with some steep inclines. With the downhill that stands out in an elevation map, it is easy to miss that the rollers are pretty hard ones.
My pace for the first 5-ish miles was pretty normal, slowing down in the downhill portions of those miles as veteran runners had adviced. And then the downhill sections started. When I saw this sign, I tried doing some math. If I was running ~12:00 pace, then did that really mean that I could run a 10:30 pace. Ha! They must be smoking something!
Until then, I was in step with a lady in fluorescent green shirt. I rarely have thoughts of sticking with or passing runners (maybe it’s my running personality or my mental misconception that I’m slower than everyone else around and hence don’t need to race others) but as I was trying to stay with her, she put the hammer down once the downhills came and took a significant lead from me.
Could I have kept up with her at that time? I don’t know. I didn’t try; my race, my pace. (Either my brilliant strategy, or like I mentioned earlier – my running personality or the mental misconception around slowness).
With the lady in green fluorescent shirt gone, I was all alone in the beautiful mountain road.
Easy downhill effort
I usually run my races (and long run) by feel and I had to especially do that on the downhills. I was running easy and effortless and an occasional glance at the Garmin freaked me out a bit on seeing some high pace numbers. Me, running in the 10:xx pace??!!! But I also knew that even though it was 10:46 pace, I was running easy-medium effort and that effort I could sustain for as long as needed. In fact, my HR was only ~165 for miles 6-9, which is an easy long run pace for me.
Upping the effort
At mile 9, with about 3 miles of downhill left, I started picking the pace a bit. To my surprise, I started coming across plenty of runners slowing down or walking. That gave me a little more oomph to push and pick people to pass one by one, including the lady in fluorescent green shirt who had dropped me earlier. Booyah!! (I may have done an internal “whoop whoop”!!)
Feeling the Half Marathon Effort
Around mile 11, I was feeling my effort a bit when I saw a guy with compression shorts come up from behind me. I talked to him for a bit and said that I would try to stick with him. We ran together for a little while and it gave me just enough motivation to be able to sustain the effort when to my surprise I hung on to move ahead and dropped him.
The mountains of mile 12
The elevation for the last mile isn’t really that bad, but after almost 7 miles of downhill, you can bet that even the slightest bump felt like you were running up a mountain! EVERY runner I saw in that last stretch was walking up hills and it was so very hard not to do the same. I’m not saying that I didn’t walk up any, because I definitely did. But it wasn’t a death march walk, it was a calculated run for a count of 40 steps, walk for a count of 20 steps just enough to recover.
The end in sight
I’ve been forever chasing the big marathon goal and had even thought about a half marathon goal.Even in that tired ‘I can’t do even simple Math and what are those numbers on my Garmin’ stage, I knew that I was somewhere close to 2:30. The thought of possibly being able to run what I had considered an unattainable sub 2:30 was pushing me. It was almost puke point the last mile. I could see the clock ticking down as I chased that 2:29:xx down and finished with a Garmin time of 2:29:29 (chip time was 2:29:24) and a HUGE smile.
The best of Teardrop Half Marathon
The small race(400 runners) was very well organized. There was no trouble with traffic, no issue parking, picking up the race number and getting on a shuttle bus.
The end of the race was in a very pretty park downtown where we’d parked and they had a LOT of food. Pity it was barbecue and vegetarian me stuck to a banana. But I did score some chips that tasted absolutely heavenly after the hard race.
The course is very very very pretty. If I was not alone and not racing, I would’ve definitely stopped for a lot of photos!
Before you jump at a PR downhill course, remember …
Downhill does NOT mean easy. In fact, downhill is harder on your body as I’m discovering with an extended recovery week.
The course is not all downhill. You have to be trained well to run through the uphill first 5 miles before you can reap the rewards of the downhill.
Have you run a downhill race?
What are your thoughts and tips?
These are some of the weekly linkups hosted by great bloggers. Check out some of the posts in the linkups.
Meatless Monday – Confessions of a Mother Runner and A Whisk and Two Wands
Tunes Tuesday (first Tuesday of the month) – KookyRunner, Run With No Regrets and RunSteffRun
Tuesdays on the Run –No Guilt Life, MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice
Running Coaches Corner – Running on Happy, Suz Lyfe, Crazy Running Girl and Coach Debbie Runs
Friday Five 2.0 –Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness
Weekly Wrap up – HoHoRuns and Taking the Long Way Home